nydailynews.com- A church volunteer in New Jersey stole thousands of dollars of church funds to pay for her wedding and make hundreds of online purchases, authorities said.
Taisha Smith-DeJoseph, 43, is accused of embezzling more than $561,000 from St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Florence, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement Tuesday.
In addition to her wedding, the Willingboro woman used the money to pay her rent, car loans, credit card debts, as well as cable and cellphone bills, authorities said.
Smith-DeJoseph, who was in charge of overseeing the church’s finances, had been stealing church funds for at least five years, officials said.
Authorities detailed in court documents how the money was spent, according to the Burlington County Times.
Over the years, Smith-DeJoseph paid more than $8,000 to DISH Network and Comcast, some $5,840 was spent on a clothing website, ASOS.com; and more than $15,000 was paid to cover car loans, according to the report.
There were also more than 800 purchases made through Amazon that totaled $22,800, and nearly 3,000 transactions on PayPal which totaled more than $266,000, the Burlington County Times reported.
Investigators became aware of her scheme after someone from St. Paul’s Baptist Church contacted the financial crimes unit with the prosecutor’s office, authorities said in the statement.
This led investigators to discover Smith-DeJoseph had opened several bank accounts for the church, according to officials. She would then create fake monthly statements to hide the church’s true finances, then transferred funds into those other accounts to use the money for personal purposes.
In total, authorities believe she embezzled $561,777.
In order to hide her theft, authorities claim she failed to file personal income tax returns for 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018. During those years, prosecutors said, she also failed to pay the appropriate amount of taxes, and in 2017, filed a fraudulent tax return.
Smith-DeJoseph faces multiple charges, prosecutors said, including theft by deception, misapplication of entrusted property, and failure to file personal income tax.