Church director charged with embezzlement

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[Updated 1:33 p.m.: Corrected location of church]

The former child care director of University United Methodist Church has been charged with third-degree felony theft for inappropriately using the church’s funds for personal purchases.

On April 22, Audrea Curtis withdrew $21,876 from the church’s account to pay for the $14,736 bill she accumulated on the church’s credit card, according to the affidavit for her arrest. Curtis used church funds to pay for personal items such as clothes, auto repairs and Austin Community College expenses, according to the affidavit. Official charges were filed last week.

Curtis’ third-degree felony theft charge may carry up to a two- to ten-year prison sentence and can include a $10,000 fine.

Bill Bingham, UUMC member and church attorney, said Curtis had been working for the child care center for almost four years and her behavior was unexpected.

“The committee that hired her thought she would be great for the job,” Bingham said. “When we discovered her expenses, we were just shocked.”

Bingham said the child care center is a program subsidized by the church to provide care for the children of UT students. He also said the position of child care director has been replaced and the center is operating as usual again.

Marc Erck, director of operations for UUMC, said the church has been cooperating with the police to provide all available records regarding the theft and will work to prevent any further misuse of funding.

“We appreciate the efforts of the local authorities to move forward with their own investigation,” Erck said. “We will continue to work closely with authorities so that similar situations do not occur in other churches or non-profit organizations.”

UT students said the theft from the church was a startling act which has increased their skepticism about trusting others.

Business freshman Alyssa Hamilton said she is skeptical about trusting any organization because of the frequent cases of employee theft.

“It’s terrible, but I am not surprised at all,” Hamilton said. “A church is just as likely to see this kind of theft as regular businesses are.”

Freshman Mackenzie Drake said she was surprised that an employee of a church adjacent to the university could steal a large amount of money before being caught.

“This theft is really taking advantage of a good cause,” Drake said. “If you can’t trust what happens at a church, then it makes you realize it could happen anywhere.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 29, 2011 as: Child caretaker arrested for stealing church funds, could face 10 years in jail