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Published: Thursday, 5/3/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Ex-employee charged in theft of $525,000

Woman allegedly cashed checks, used credit card issued to church

BY ERICA BLAKE AND DAVID YONKE
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Once a trusted staff member, the former business manager for Gesu Parish was criminally charged in U.S. District in Toledo on Wednesday for allegedly stealing more than $525,000 from the parish.

Patricia Ann Stanz, 61, of Toledo was charged with one count each of counterfeit securities and fraudulent use of access device. She was employed as the parish business manager from August, 2007, to August, 2011.

According to court documents, Ms. Stanz is accused of creating and signing 97 checks totaling about $295,000 that she then cashed from the Gesu Parish checking account.

It is further alleged that she fraudulently used a credit card issued to Gesu Parish to obtain $230,757 in cash advances and purchases.

The alleged thefts began in June, 2008, and lasted through August, 2011, and totaled $525,757, according to court documents.

The charges carry a combined maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

"This person abused the trust of her employer and the entire congregation," said Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

Gesu parishioners were informed about the alleged thefts in August and told earlier this year that the money totaled more than $500,000. They were assured that despite the loss, parish and school financial obligations were being met.

The Rev. Jim Cryan, pastor of the West Toledo parish, said Wednesday that he had not seen the information charging Ms. Stanz and so declined to comment. He had previously written in a letter to parishioners that parish officials had cooperated with law enforcement throughout the investigation and offered reassurance that "despite the substantial size of the fraud, our parish's overall financial condition remains solid."

According to a statement released Wednesday by the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, the diocesan finance office also conducted "an extensive review of the parish and school financial records" in accordance with the federal investigation.

The results of the diocesan review were shared with federal authorities. According to the statement, every parish in the diocese is subject to a periodic financial audit by the diocesan finance office and is audited whenever there is a change in pastor. The last diocesan audit at Gesu was for fiscal year 2003-2004.

Ms. Stanz could not be reached for comment. No court dates have yet been set in the case, which was assigned to Judge James Carr.

D. Michael Collins, a Toledo city councilman, former policeman, and 35-year member of Gesu Parish, said that Father Cryan asked him to be part of a small parish committee in December, 2011, to discuss policies, procedures, and criminal prosecution in wake of the alleged thefts.

Ms. Stanz allegedly used the money for gambling as well as other unauthorized personal expenses, Mr. Collins said. Being the church's business manager, she would then write checks on the parish account to pay the bills.

The parish has a finance committee, he said, but new policies have been enacted, using a manual from the Toledo diocese, to safeguard church funds since the financial discrepancies were discovered by Fifth Third Bank and reported to the FBI in May, 2011, he said.

Mr. Collins said most Gesu parishioners were shocked and angered when they learned of the missing funds, ultimately wanting to know "how we are going to be made whole" and "whether we have insurance protection from this." The insurance questions "are yet to be resolved," he added.

Mr. Collins said the loss of more than half a million dollars "was a severe blow" financially to Gesu, but "the parish is holding its own, the parish is paying its bills. We will not seek financial receivership remedies."

He said Ms. Stanz was fired as soon as the parish was notified of the missing money and is now believed to be in Tennessee.

According to documents filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, a case involving a home in her name on Wiler Lane in Toledo was referred to foreclosure mediation on April 26. Ms. Stanz, who has not responded to the court, was ordered to make contact by May 10.

Mr. Collins said he believes any sentence should be a long one.

"If all you get for stealing half a million dollars from an organization is a hand-slap, I think there'd be a lot of hand-slapping going on," Mr. Collins said.

Gesu is in the process of accepting applications and interviewing prospective business managers, he said.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com, or 419-213-2134.



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