BENTON Ark. (KTHV) - A Saline County church secretary was arrested on credit card fraud, identity theft, and theft of property charges after having allegedly stolen thousands from a church bank account.
They are in the business of giving, but two months ago, Pastor Jeff Langley of Congo Road Baptist Church learned someone had been taking.
"We were getting a monthly treasurer's report and the belief that this report was accurate," says Pastor Langley. "About the end of July, first of August, we were contacted by the bank and told there were some irregularities going on with our account."
They were rregularities dating back some five years to the summer of 2007. While booking told leaders they had approximately $107,000 in the bank, their bank account said they were nearly $2,000 overdrawn.
Lt. Scott Courtney with the Saline County Sheriff's Department says after a two month investigation, authorities arrested the church secretary Rebecca Walker on Friday, charging her with 150 of theft of property and 11 counts of fraudulent use of a credit card.
"Phone transfers from the bank from their banking account to her banking account and through the fraudulent use of a credit card that was in the churches name," says Lt. Courtney.
It turn out Walker had been stealing funds for more than five years and forging the churches financial books to look normal for church leaders.
"Statements were no longer being mailed to the church. They were electronic so no one ever got to see them so we didn't really follow that that closely," says Pastor Langley.
Langley says the news came as a shock but what happened when he told his congregation surprised him even more.
"Within the next couple of weeks, the giving just...it was phenomenal," says Pastor Langley.
His church of just over a hundred people gave even more the next Sunday, going so far as to forgive thief and welcome her back with open arms.
"We do believe in forgiveness, we do believe in trusting the Lord, we do believe in working together and God has blessed that up to this point in time and we're thankful for that," says Pastor Langley.
Pastor Langley says the church is thankful that their food pantry ministry that feeds between 40 and 70 families a week was not affected by the theft. He says most members have not even dwelled on the missing money, only how they can prevent this from happening in the future.
Walker posted bond on Friday but is due back in court next month. Lt. Courtney says due to the amount of charges, she will most likely face significant jail time and be forced to pay restitution to the church.
The Saline County Sheriff's office says it is usually churches and charitable organizations that fall victim to these kinds of crimes due to more relaxed auditing practices.
(Source: Saline County Sheriff's Office)