A 72-year-old woman in Indiana has been sentenced to federal prison after embezzling nearly $574,000 from her church and its school to fund gambling escapades and "lavish" vacations.
On Monday (February 13), the Department of Justice announced that Marie Carson had been sentenced to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud for stealing money from the Saint Matthew Catholic Church and School as a business manager for the parish.
According to court documents, Carson was the sole staffer responsible for handling funds from parishioners and conducting financial transactions on behalf of the church and school for 13 years. She illegally transferred at least $573,836.59 to her personal accounts from 2008 to 2021, but the DOJ noted that the amount of stolen funds is likely much larger due to Carson admitting that she actually began the scheme in 2004.
Her scheme was exposed in November 2021, when Carson was on leave from her position as the church's business manager. Her temporary replacement flagged suspicious transfers to an external bank account, the DOJ said.
According to the department, Carson and her husband used a "significant amount of money" for gambling and month-long vacations to Florida.
"For more than thirteen years, this defendant abused her position of trust to embezzle money from parishioners intended for a church and school," said Zachary A. Myers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. "Her greed and desire for lavish vacations outweighed her interest in following the dictates of our criminal laws and the teachings of her church, ‘thou shalt not steal.’"
Myers said he hopes Carson's sentence will send a "clear message" to people considering stealing, defrauding, and embezzlement.
"We will find you, you will be prosecuted, and you will be held accountable," he said.
Following her release from prison, Carson is expected to be on probation for two years. She has also been ordered to pay restitution for the stolen funds.