by Sam Levin
Here's one way to completely ignore the misson of your church organization, courtesy of Nancy O'Donnnell, once a Missouri nonprofit treasurer who made a series of very un-churchy decisions. Instead of helping St. Vincent de Paul Society with its objectives of "providing personal assistance with furniture, food, clothing, rent, utilities and other necessities to people facing economic and other crises," O'Donnell decided to focus her efforts on stealing.
And there's no place better place to steal from than the own pot of charitable donations you are supposed to oversee.
But hundreds of thousands of embezzled dollars later, O'Donnell is paying the price for her sins: The United States Attorney's Office announced this afternoon that she has formally been sentenced to one year and one day in prison for embezzling funds. And the announcement comes with a detailed description of the great lengths O'Donnell took to siphon off a lot of cash.
St. Joseph Catholic Church of Cottleville, Missouri has been in operation for more than a hundred years, officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office Eastern District of Missouri explain in today's announcement. And the associated St. Joseph Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is a Catholic volunteer program through which participants collect and distribute donations to those in need within the St. Joseph parish. Parishioners primarily make cash and check donations directly to the St. Joseph Conference.
Enter Nancy O'Donnell, 53, of St. Peters, Missouri.
Court documents show that she was treasurer for the St. Joseph Conference starting in October 2005. In that position she was in charge of financial record keeping, which included receiving donations and payments and depositing them to the Society's bank account. She was apparently pretty good at the receiving part but not so much when it came to depositing the funds where they belonged.
On April 27, 2006, she opened a sham checking account in the name of the St. Joseph Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society -- but used her own personal residence address as the business address. The Board of Directors of the organization was in the dark, officials say.
She rigged the paperwork such that she was the only authorized signer of this sham account -- and she also maintained a personal checking account in her own name.
In the treasurer position, which is also responsible for documenting the use of donated funds, she deposited the funds into her own account or into the sham account she created. From those accounts, she then wrote checks to herself or to "cash."
How did she hide this?
All the reports she prepared for the organization included information only regarding the authorized account and not from her personal account or sham account. And just to be safe, she had all statements and correspondences related to the false account sent to her personal address rather than the Society's business address.
Still, authorities with the Cottleville Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation ultimately uncovered her scheme -- and she pled guilty in October to one felony count of mail fraud.
At her sentencing today, she was ordered to pay $209,000 restitution, after already paying $192,000.
More from our Criminally Stupid archive: "Pro Tip: If You Rob a Gas Station, Don't Leave Your Keys There"