Wisconsin woman pleads guilty to stealing $30K from congregation

Viacheslav Bublyk/Unsplash
Viacheslav Bublyk/Unsplash

A woman who stole around $30,000 from a church in Wisconsin pleaded guilty to theft and will serve four days in the House of Correction and pay a fine to the church she stole from.

Mary Moton, a 62-year-old resident of Milwaukee and former employee at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, pleaded guilty last week to the charge of theft from a business setting, reported Fox 6 News Milwaukee on Wednesday.

While Moton also faced an additional count of forgery, that count was dismissed. Authorities estimate that she embezzled more than $30,000 from the church.

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Moton was sentenced to four days in the correctional facility, with four days credit for time already served. Additionally, she was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $11,735 in restitution to Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. 

According to Fox 6, Moton had been with the church for 11 years and was serving as its financial secretary when, starting in April 2022, she began writing checks for herself from the church’s bank account.

Last August, after the bank informed the church that some of their checks were bouncing, authorities were brought in to investigate and quickly discovered Moton’s actions.

According to prosecutors, Moton admitted to stealing the money but also said the funds were gone, as she had lost the money while investing them in Bitcoin.

In total, according to authorities, Moton wrote out 12 forged checks to herself from April to July of last year. The payments ranged in value from a minimum of $700 to as high as $7,000, noted a report published by Fox 6 at the time of her arrest last year.

Moton is not the only example of a trusted employee misusing a church’s finances for personal gain. Last month, a church treasurer in Minnesota was found guilty of stealing over $183,000 from a Minnesota congregation to feed a gambling addiction.

Patricia Ann Radich of Rochester was ordered to pay $251,167.47 in restitution to Trinity Lutheran Church. She received a sentence of 89 days at the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center and five years of supervised probation.

In February, Marie Carson, a longtime employee of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, will spend two years behind bars for stealing more than half a million dollars from the business accounts of the church and school where she worked to pay for gambling and vacations. She was also sentenced to two years of supervised release and will have to repay the money she stole in restitution. 

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.

“Churches run on trust — but they also know people are imperfect and can be tempted,” stated Lifeway Executive Director Scott McConnell when the study was released. “That’s why safeguarding a church’s finances is an important part of ministry.”

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