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Church reports theft of $20K from coffers

Published Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Officials of a Westside church reported Monday an ex-employee stole $20,000 from church coffers, Athens-Clarke police said.

The officials at Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church uncovered discrepancies during a recent finance committee meeting, and further investigation determined the full extent of the thefts, according to the Rev. Carey Gibson, the Prince Avenue church’s pastor.

But Gibson and other church officials haven’t yet decided whether to press charges against Kathy Williams Krueger, who had been the church’s administrative assistant and office manager.

“We filed a preliminary police report, we’ll file a supplemental report with all the documentation, and certainly our insurance company will get involved,” Gibson said.

“We’ve got a ways to go before we have answers to all the questions we need to make a decision,” he said.

Nevertheless, the theft case will be assigned to an Athens-Clarke police financial crimes investigator, said Capt. Clarence Holeman, commanding officer of the Centralized Criminal Investigations Division.

Taking out warrants on the former church employee is another matter.

“Based on what we have now, there is enough probable cause to make an arrest, but we would like to have someone affiliated with the church to go along with the prosecution because that will make (criminal charges) hold,” Holeman said.

The church immediately fired the 47-year-old Watkinsville woman after they confronted her about the missing money, and she admitted to stealing it, Gibson said.

According to a police report, Krueger had been taking money from the church since at least January 2010, by using a church credit card and making out payroll checks to herself.

Krueger has made partial restitution, giving the church a check for $12,000 that her mother made out, Gibson said. Krueger also has promised eventually to fully repay what she stole.

However, any decision to prosecute Krueger will be made “independent” of her attempts to make things right, the pastor said.

“There were a lot of people who were pretty heartbroken and quite shocked about what she did,” Gibson said.

“It’s not anything anyone would have foreseen, but it reminds us that whoever we are — whether pastors or employees of the church or outside the church — we are all subject to doing things that we shouldn’t do, things we understand in Christian terms as sin, and any one of us can fall to that,” he said.


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