Former Berks County deacon charged with stealing more than $150K from parish

READING, Pa. (WPVI) -- A Lehigh County man who served his parish in Berks County as a church deacon and school principal is under arrest, along with his wife, on charges they used thousands of dollars in church funds for their own expenses over the course of more than eight years.

Thomas James Murphy and Anne Marie Murphy, both of Lower Macungie Township, surrendered to detectives with the Berks County district attorney's office in Reading on Thursday.

Authorities said their investigation of the couple began in September, when attorneys for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown sounded the alarm about the misappropriation of more than $150,000 at the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish and St. Francis Academy, both in Bally.

The loss, officials said, was discovered during a routine audit of the church and school's finances.

"Our financial audits are designed to ensure that the funds entrusted to us by parishioners, school parents and donors are used for the intended purpose," said Mark E. Smith, the diocese's chief financial officer.

As part of their investigation, detectives said they reviewed the church and school's financial records from January 2010 through July 2018. That review pointed them in the direction of a Chase credit card account and a BB&T checking account.
In his job as principal, Thomas Murphy collected cash and checks and deposited the money into the BB&T account, which he, alone, had access to, detectives said.

The credit card was issued to both Thomas Murphy and St. Francis Academy, and the billing address was Murphy's residence, which, detectives said, was a "conscious effort and attempt to cover up this wrong-doing and prevent anyone from discovering this fraudulent behavior."

Ann Murphy also had a credit card for the same account, detectives said.

In the end, the investigators said they confirmed the loss of approximately $150,000 between January 2010 and July 2018.

Thomas Murphy, 65, was charged with theft by deception, failure to make required disposition of funds received, receiving stolen property, criminal conspiracy, and secure execution of documents by deception.

Ann Murphy, 61, was charged with receiving stolen property, criminal conspiracy, criminal conspiracy to commit theft by deception, criminal conspiracy to make required disposition of funds, and secure execution of documents by deception.

The diocese said it will pursue restitution.
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