A New Jersey church secretary is accused of embezzling over $500,000 from her former employer over the course of five years, NJ.com reports. Taisha Smith-DeJoseph allegedly used the stolen money to pay for her wedding and her car payments, among other things.
Smith-DeJospeh had, until recently, been the director of finances of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Florence. However, authorities say that beginning in 2014, she ran a scheme that defrauded the church of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the next five years, ending in 2019.
Specifically, authorities say that she used her position within the church to set up fraudulent bank accounts on behalf of the church, but would actually use them for herself. She’s further accused of issuing checks to herself, drawing on the church’s main bank account, and then falsifying the records to hide what was happening.
Over that period, she allegedly took more than $561,000, according to Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV. She allegedly used the money to pay for car loan payments, rent, credit card expenses, satellite television, and cell phone bills, to make hundreds of online purchases, and even to pay for her wedding at The Merion, an upscale wedding and reception venue in Cinnaminson.
What’s more, authorities say that Smith-DeJospeh did not file tax returns in 2014-2016 and in 2018, and allegedly filed a fraudulent tax return in 2017.
Taisha Smith-DeJoseph served as a church volunteer, but prosecutors say she embezzled more than $561,000 from St. Paul Baptist Church in Florence Twp. and used the money for her personal expenses including a wedding reception. Tonight at 11pm. @NBCPhiladelphia pic.twitter.com/NeWMSaDmQD
— Denise Nakano (@DeniseNakanoTV) February 11, 2020
Church officials contacted the prosecutor’s Financial Crimes Unit when they began to suspect something was amiss with the organization’s finances.
Smith-DeJospeh has been charged with 13 criminal counts that include second-degree theft, computer criminal activity, and tax fraud.
Pastor Fred Jackson says that Christianity is a religion of trust, but that sometimes people abuse that trust.
“Trust. Trust. That’s all I can say. We as Christians like to believe we’re trusting and we put our trust in other people and in God and sometimes that trust is misplaced,” he said.
Fortunately for the congregation, the incident hasn’t had an effect on the members’ donations.
“Most of the church knows about what was going on. Thankfully the contributions have not decreased,” Jackson said.
Meanwhile, the church has since put into place procedures to prevent such a crime from happening again.
In January, as reported at the time by The Inquisitr, Guy Thompson, the former mayor of a Northwest Florida town, was sentenced to 51 months in prison for embezzling over half a million dollars from the United Way. Thompson was a well-known and well-respected public figure in the community, and he used his profile and position of trust to dodge suspicion.