Ex-employee of Tampa church steals $775K from parish operating account

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A former employee of a Florida church has reportedly stolen $775,000 from its parish operating account over the last five months.

Christ the King Catholic Church, located in Tampa, is believed to have had money stolen from its parish account while the church is undergoing a construction project in the hopes of building a new youth center. 

The Rev. Len Plazewski, pastor of Christ the King Church, told Tampa Bay 10 News on Monday that several factors contributed to concealing the stolen funds, including the construction project. 

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An unnamed diocese spokesperson mentioned that although no personal information was compromised in the alleged fraudulent activity, parishioners were informed about the stolen funds last weekend during all church services. 

According to the spokesperson and Plazewski, the suspect, who is not being named at this time, will plan to enter a plea in federal court, which "will include full repayment to the Parish and other penalties to be determined by a federal judge."

Christ the King Catholic Church offers "a variety of ministries, each pointed to fulfill our mission here at Christ The King: to serve God and care for people."

"Whether you are drawn to Bible studies, mission, outreach, worship or any other area of service, there is a place for you to grow and contribute your unique gifts and talents here," the church added.

According to a 2019 report by Brotherhood Mutual, it is estimated that fraud committed against churches worldwide may reach the $80 billion mark by 2025.

"Church thieves are creative," says Tom Lichtenberger, assistant vice president of property claims at Brotherhood Mutual. "Often, church people can't bring themselves to believe that their pastor, a church trustee, long-time member, or the school cook could possibly steal from the church."

"Normally, it's one of the most trusted people in the church who's pilfering from the collection plate, or diverting funds from the church budget or investment accounts to feed their spending habits or pay personal debts."

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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