TACOMA, WA – Today Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged Janet Maureen Sego, 55, with four counts of theft for stealing over $30,000 from Bethany United Methodist Church.
"This case is an unfortunate reminder that businesses and associations need to carefully supervise and audit those who handle their money," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. "As the saying goes, 'Trust but verify.'"
In 2008, the defendant, a member of Bethany United Methodist Church, was elected by the church board as the church treasurer. This is a volunteer position. The defendant was authorized to pay bills and entrusted to provide financial reports to the pastor and church board.
On several occasions the pastor and church board requested bank records from the defendant. She failed to provide them. In July 2011, concern about the church finances heightened when a check bounced. In May 2012, the bank notified that their main checking account was overdrawn. After repeated attempts to obtain financial reports from the defendant failed, she was removed as treasurer.
The church then hired a new accountant who began an audit of all the church accounts from 2008 through 2012. The defendant was aware of the audit, and contacted the pastor. She confessed that she had, "pilfered around $5,000 to $10,000." She also admitted to writing checks to herself and making withdrawals. The audit found that the defendant had misappropriated $35,115.81 from the church accounts, starting in 2008 and continuing into 2012.
In January 2013, the pastor received an e-mail from the defendant that read, "I'm wondering if you've gotten anything back on my mistake? ... I am in process of getting $5,000 to turn into the Church as soon as possible." The e-mail was sent from the defendant's work account that identified her as a financial assistant for the City of Tacoma, Environmental Services. Officers arrested the defendant on March 5, 2013 at her home.
The defendant was arraigned today. Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
For more information, please contact Kelly Kelstrup at (253) 798-7792, [email protected].