Church treasurer sentenced for embezzling over $183K from congregation

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A 64-year-old accountant and church treasurer found guilty of stealing more than $183,000 from a Minnesota church to feed a gambling addiction.

Patricia Ann Radich of Rochester was ordered to pay $251,167.47 in restitution to Trinity Lutheran Church and serve 89 days at the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center, reported KIMT 3 News on Tuesday. She has also been sentenced to five years of supervised probation.

According to court documents, Radich stole from approximately $1.15 million that was specifically raised by the church for remodeling projects in order to pay off gambling debts. Investigators allege that an audit found $422,925 in checks were made out to Radich between 2013 and 2019, and money was deposited into a bank account. Investigators drew from ATM records to track her usage, saying she withdrew thousands at a casino some days. 

Around the time that the church was going to conduct a financial review in May 2020, Radich admitted to having stolen the funds. The church contacted authorities shortly after that.

Radich was charged in a criminal complaint filed in April 2021 with eight counts of theft by swindle and four counts of theft, reported the Rochester-based Post Bulletin.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Rochester released a statement in 2021 saying that filing charges against the former treasurer was "was a difficult, but necessary, step as the congregation seeks to address the impact caused by the significant embezzlement of funds."

"Though the situation is very troubling, God has carried Trinity Lutheran Church through various adversities during its 153 years of ministry, and we are united in our belief that He will remain faithful and show us the way through our current challenges," the church stated. 

Radich pleaded guilty to the eight counts of theft by swindle as part of a deal that would include dismissing the other four counts of theft, according to ABC 6 News.

According to a 2017 study by LifeWay Research, nearly 10% of surveyed Protestant pastors said their church had witnessed someone embezzle funds. Congregations with 250 or more members were slightly more likely than smaller churches to report this.

LifeWay Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a statement at the time that churches' reliance on volunteers to deal with finances could be a factor in these thefts.

"Churches run on trust — but they also know people are imperfect and can be tempted," stated McConnell. "That's why safeguarding a church's finances is an important part of ministry."

Earlier this month, a New Hampshire church's executive pastor pleaded guilty to steeling over $130,000 to pay off gambling debts. 

Between January 2017 and March 2020, Gregory Neal made unauthorized withdrawals from accounts belonging to Journey Baptist Church to cover his gambling debts and also used the church's credit cards for his personal benefit, according to U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young.

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