Congregation feels betrayed by embezzler
Woman awaits sentencing for stealing from Waukesha church
By DAVID DOEGE
Posted: Sept. 1, 2005
Waukesha - A woman awaiting sentencing for stealing $250,000 from her church has caused upheaval in the congregation and left some congregants wondering if she may have stolen more, according to a letter to the judge who will sentence her next month.
While Judith Lynn Anderson pleaded guilty in the criminal case and settled a civil lawsuit filed by the church, some members suspect that a complete accounting of her thievery will never be known, according to the letter, a victim impact statement from a church representative.
"Many members believe more was taken than was identified and wonder where that money may be located," Thomas B. Taft says in the statement sent to Waukesha County Judge Ralph Ramirez on behalf of First United Methodist Church of Waukesha.
But Chris Bailey, the attorney representing Anderson in criminal court, said Thursday that there is no hidden money.
"I really don't believe that to be the case," Bailey said.
Bailey added that in the resolution of the civil suit, the church agreed on the $250,000 figure.
"They stipulated to that," Bailey said. "The settlement ended up being for $320,000, but the added $70,000 was for legal fees and costs that she agreed to pay."
Meanwhile, in another letter sent to Ramirez this week, the church's senior pastor said members have mixed feelings about Anderson and what should be done with her.
"It is an action none will forget, some can forgive and for which others want punishment," the Rev. Dwight Bastian wrote in the letter in which he noted that he was speaking "only for myself and represent no one else."
Anderson, 53, of the City of Pewaukee, had been scheduled to be sentenced Thursday but the proceeding was postponed at the request of Bailey so his client could undergo a psychological assessment.
Bailey noted that both a state Department of Corrections probation and parole agent preparing a pre-sentence report and a defense-retained retired probation supervisor, who is preparing a sentencing memorandum, recommended the assessment to help determine Anderson's "level of criminal thinking."
Anderson, a lifelong member of the church, was charged in a criminal complaint that says she took the funds from March 2000 to August 2003.
Payroll checks duplicated
The complaint says Anderson, the congregation's longtime business manager, stole the money by issuing duplicate payroll checks to herself, writing checks to herself and making unauthorized personal purchases with a church credit card.
When the church, at 121 Wisconsin Ave., sued Anderson in September 2003, attorneys accused her of using unauthorized checks and credit cards totaling $41,448, according to court records.
But an itemization of alleged damages filed in June 2004 on behalf of the church put the loss at $253,383.
Another document filed in the civil case contends that Anderson "used monies stolen from the church" to make purchases from Midwest Airlines, Funjet, AirTran Airways, restaurants, motels and retailers in sporting goods, furniture, hardware and tires, among other things.
In November, the civil case was closed, with Anderson and her husband stipulating that they owed the church $320,000.
"Some congregation members who were close to Mrs. Anderson have had a very difficult time psychologically," Taft wrote in the victim impact statement. "A few have had to seek counseling."
Betrayal of trust
In his letter, Bastian wrote: "The gravity and extent of Mrs. Anderson's embezzlement on First United Methodist Church, Waukesha, is difficult to assess: trust has been betrayed; lifetime friendships have been broken; hundreds of volunteer hours have gone to investigation; ministries have suffered.
"The ramifications of her actions have also been significant for Mrs. Anderson. Virtually all her personal, professional and community relationships have been severed. New ones sometimes end abruptly when her past becomes known. Family remains the only support system still available to her."
Bastian's letter does not advocate for a particular sentence. He asked, though, that Ramirez "weigh heavily her emotional need for the ties that family provide."
"In addition, of course, incarceration prevents her employment, which does not enable her to repay the stolen funds," Bastian wrote.
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This is the church I used to attend. This woman sent 2 sons through the UW system @ Madison, always drove new, expensive vehicles, and is now living in the City of Pewaukee ($300K homes), all on the church's dime.
What would you say is proper punishment for such a misdeed?
My stepfather has been following this case closely, b/c he volunteered @ the church & pointed out to several people on SEVERAL occasions, that the church's treasury had no system of checks & balances. He was told, "We operate on faith here". (bwaaaahahahahahaha! sorry, that's just funny now. tell me that's not funny.) That, amongst other things, made my parents leave this church.
I mean, stealing from the church to keep up w/the joneses, her place is Hell is already set, right? But should she be allowed to work? Or just go to jail? Last I heard, she got a job at a bank.
I think she should be Martha Stewart's bitch or equivalent.
Just wondering what everyone else thought.