Woman Steals A Million Dollars from Archdiocese of NY
February 1, 2012
The Catholic Church is no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to background screening. For years the public demanded better screening of Priests and other congregant workers. These demands and other public pressures is likely why they adopted a policy a few years back. However, as we can see here, when Ms. Collins was hired in June 2003, background checks were not common practice in the church. Like we always say, money is easy(ier) to recover than ones reputation. Careless oversight and lack screening policies have led them to where they are today. As you will read later in the article, a simple criminal records check on Ms. Collins would have revealed a past recrod; According to court records, Ms. Collins was arrested in June 1999, and charged with stealing at least $46,000 over 16 months from AccuStaff, a Manhattan temporary employment agency where she worked as a payroll manager.
In Million-Dollar Theft Case, Church Worker With a Secret Past
For eight years, the woman worked in accounts payable for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, gaining the trust of her superiors.
Colleagues praised her quiet dedication and hard work, and noted that she prayed often; her volunteer work at an event at St. Patrick’s Cathedral won mention in the church’s newspaper, Catholic New York. No one, then, questioned the hundreds of checks she wrote at the archdiocese to cover small expenses, like office supplies and utility bills.
On Monday, the woman, Anita Collins, 67, was charged with embezzling more than $1 million over seven years from the archdiocese.
Prosecutors in Manhattan said she did not live lavishly. But at her modest home in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx, a particular interest of Ms. Collins’s became apparent: expensive dolls.
Detectives emerged from her three-bedroom apartment on Monday carrying boxes filled with personal effects: 17 or 18 were labeled dolls, many from the Madame Alexander catalog; about three more were labeled bears. And when a postal service carrier walked by, she noted the volume of mail and packages that the family received.
“They get packages like no tomorrow,” she said.
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said Ms. Collins was confronted about the missing money in December after an annual audit raised red flags. She was fired, and the archdiocese referred the matter to the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
When Ms. Collins was hired by the archdiocese in June 2003, it did not perform criminal background checks on prospective employees, as it does now, Mr. Zwilling said. So church officials were unaware until recently that she had been convicted of grand larceny in one case and had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in another.
Mr. Zwilling said the scheme diverted money “designated for the purpose of helping to provide Catholic education.” The archdiocese has been closing churches and schools for lack of money, and asking for more than $15 million in an annual charity appeal.
“We are continually reviewing how money is handled, our financial controls,” Mr. Zwilling said, “because we want to be good stewards of the money entrusted to us.”
Prosecutors said Ms. Collins had issued 468 checks from the archdiocese to “KB Collins,” the initials of one of her sons. After each check was printed, she would change internal records to show that the check had been issued to a legitimate vendor, prosecutors said.
“At first, we thought it was only a handful of checks, but we quickly realized that it was much bigger,” Mr. Zwilling said.
She kept the amounts to less than $2,500 each to avoid the approval of a supervisor required for larger checks, a prosecutor, Amy Justiniano, said during Ms. Collins’s arraignment.
A veteran screening and risk management professional, Jason Morris founded EmployeeScreenIQ in 1999 and acts as the company’s chief operating officer and president. Morris is a frequent speaker delivering captivating, interactive discussions on background checks, global screening, recruitment and staffing. He educates audiences in best practice initiatives as they relate to organizational employment screening programs. Morris has been quoted in numerous business and industry publications including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, USA Today, New York Times, among others. He is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona and Nevada.
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