Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Church business manager sentenced to two years in theft

WAUKESHA, Wis. - Terming what she had done an obscenity, a judge sentenced the former business manager of First United Methodist Church of Waukesha to two years in prison for stealing $253,000 in church funds to enhance her lifestyle.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Ralph Ramirez also had a piece of advice Monday to Judith Lynn Anderson, 53, of what she ought to do besides working full time during 10 years of extended supervision he also ordered her to serve.

"Quite frankly, I suggest you get a part-time job, too, to pay back all you owe," Ramirez told Anderson.

Authorities said she took ski vacations in Colorado and golf trips in Florida, among other things, with the money that was taken.

Anderson pleaded guilty in July to felony theft for stealing the money from March 2000 to August 2003. She was also sued in civil court by her former congregation and reached a settlement with the church in which she and her husband agreed to pay $320,000. That figure includes $70,000 in interest and attorney fees, according to defense attorney Chris Bailey.

Church spokesman Thomas Taft Jr. said First United Methodist has received $81,000 in proceeds from the sale of the Andersons' former home and $800 in payments the couple made until Anderson lost her job.

Anderson stole the money by issuing duplicate payroll checks to herself, writing checks to herself and making unauthorized personal purchases with a church credit card, authorities said.

A 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.

The judge also said Monday in court that Anderson used the church's money to buy a pickup truck for her son and a $50,000 boat that she and her husband still used last summer.

"There was no need for you to take any of this money, This was not putting shoes on the baby's feet. This was not buying milk," Ramirez said, adding: "I perceive this as good, old-fashioned greed."

Assistant District Attorney Kevin Osborne said: "There is no explanation for this crime that I'm aware of other than that the defendant wanted to live beyond her means."

Anderson expressed remorse at the hearing.

"In no way can I justify what I did," she said.

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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