A longtime worker for the Archdiocese of New York has been accused of using accounting tricks to steal more than $1 million from the church, law enforcement officials and church leaders said.
Anita Collins was arrested Monday after an investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office. She was expected to be arraigned later in the day.
Prosecutors alleged Collins spent $18,000 of the stolen money on furniture from Bloomingdale's; $23,000 on clothing at Barney's; $14,000 on clothing at Brooks Brothers; and $19,000 on trinkets from an Irish gift store.
Collins allegedly engaged in a “sophisticated fraud to manipulate the accounts payable system in the Department of Education Finance Office,” Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, said in a statement.
Zwilling said Archdiocese officials uncovered what they initially believed to be at least $350,000 in stolen funds and reported their suspicions to the Manhattan DA.
“As a result of the investigation conducted by the Manhattan D.A. and with the full cooperation of the Archdiocese, it has been determined that the amount stolen is approximately $1 million,” Zwilling said.
Collins began working for the Archdiocese in 2003 and was fired Dec. 6 when the alleged fraud was discovered, Zwilling said.
“This defendant is accused of stealing from the Archdiocese for seven and a half long years,” said Vance. “It appears that she only stopped because she finally got caught. I would like to thank the Archdiocese for detecting the initial fraud, referring the matter to my Office, and for its full cooperation throughout the investigation.”
Collins was promoted to manage the Archdiocese finances at the main office after having earlier worked in the education finance office, according to the New York Post.
Police told the Post she allegedly issued 450 checks for phony invoices, each deposited into bank accounts she controlled. The checks allegedly totaled less than $2,500 -- an amount that would trigger a sign-off from a supervisor.
The Bronx woman has a criminal record for grand larceny in 1999 in an earlier job and the Archdiocese never ran a background check on her, the Post reported.
“Sadly, there will always be individuals who seek to exploit and circumvent whatever system is established, but we will remain vigilant in our oversight,” Zwilling said.
Collins remained in jail Monday evening.
Her lawyer's name wasn't immediately available, according to the Associated Press.
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