Thursday, March 5, 2020

Woman Charged with Stealing Almost $400,000 from Berks County Church Over 10 Years

A Berks County woman was charged and taken into custody this week for stealing almost $400,000 from a church in Berks County.

According to the Berks County District Attorney's Office, on July 24, 2019, a representative of the Calvary Lutheran Church, which is located at 1009 Elizabeth Avenue, Laureldale, Berks County, reported a theft to the Laureldale Police Department. The complainant reported that the church was the victim and that the financial loss was significant.

The Laureldale Police Department immediately contacted the Berks County Detective’s Office requesting assistance and forwarded their initial report to the Berks County Detective’s Office for follow-up. 

The Berks County Detective’s Office initiated a criminal investigation which yielded the following information:

The defendant, Melanie Lee Kummerer, was appointed to the position of Central Treasurer of the Calvary Lutheran Church back in January 2009. She held this position up until February 25, 2019, when she submitted her resignation letter.

The Central Treasurer position received a predetermined yearly stipend of $2,503.00.

The defendant, during her 10 year tenure as Central Treasurer, maintained and secured the church’s financial records at her personal residence.

In August 2018, the Calvary Lutheran Church received a new Pastor. During their interview of the new Pastor, the leadership of the church raised concerns about the church’s finances. In October 2018, the new Pastor attended his first Finance Committee Meeting. At this meeting, the new Pastor requested that the central treasurer, the defendant, provide them a balance sheet and income statement 
sheet at all future meetings.

The defendant failed to produce the balance sheets and income statement sheets at the next two Finance Committee Meetings. The defendant provided various excuses for failing to provide the requested reports.

On October 4, 2019, the Calvary Lutheran Church provided the Berks County Detective’s Office a copy of the complete and comprehensive forensic audit of their financial records.

As a result of the forensic audit, along with the outcome of the criminal investigation, the Berks County Detectives were able to identify more than 200 checks which were forged by the defendant, between 2009 and 2019, totaling approx. $391,444.03.

On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, the Berks County Detectives filed criminal charges of Theft by Deception, Theft by Unlawful Taking, Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds Received, Forgery, Receiving Stolen Property, and Securing Execution of Documents by Deception against the defendant at Magisterial District Judge Dean Patton’s Office and an arrest warrant was issued.

At approximately 12:30 P.M., the defendant surrendered to the Berks County Detectives. She was taken into custody and immediately escorted to the Central Processing Center and released to the Berks County Sheriff’s Department. The defendant was fingerprinted and photographed. A preliminary arraignment was held via video by Magisterial District Judge Dean Patton who set bail at $10,000.00. The defendant posted bail and was released pending a preliminary hearing, which will be held at a later date.

As in every criminal case, the fact that an arrest occurred or a complaint has been filed is merely an accusation, and the defendant, Melanie Lee Kummerer, is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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