September 21, 2019

Note to Thieving Church CFOs: Sex Scandals Are Not a Good Excuse For Stealing

42-year-old Anita Guzzardi worked at the Philadelphia archdiocese since the ripe old age of 20, rising through the ranks to make $124,000 a year as their CFO until she was canned last year for embezzling $900,000 from the church.

Her lawyer says she gave in to gambling and shopping addictions after feeling betrayed by the church over a Catholic priest kid sex scandal that coincidentally came to light around the same time she started stealing the church's money. Where's kid touching on the fraud triangle, anyone know?

Working through her feelings of frustration and hurt, Guzzardi used the money she stole from 2005 until she was caught last year to fund trips to Hawaii, the Caribbean and San Francisco, paid her credit cards and even paid down her mortgage. Because, you know, the traumatized kids would want her to have nice stuff and take trips.

Her lawyer stated that the sex scandal was a far greater problem for the church than its former CFO stealing nearly $1 million and helpfully pointed out that his client's theft didn't cause any school or program closures since insurance covered the losses.

Assistant District Attorney Lisa Caulfield called Guzzardi's addiction claim an excuse and said Guzzardi was motivated by greed and her "love of nice things." Isn't that how the Catholic priests got in trouble too?

Anyhoo, Guzzardi has been sentenced to 2 – 7 years in prison and was not allowed a few days to hang with family before heading off to her cage. The prosecution requested a 5 1/2 – 11 year prison sentence while Guzzardi's defense asked for probation only so she could repay $600,000+ in restitution sonner but the judge rejected the request, saying that it would send the wrong message to other business and nonprofit financial officers who might be tempted to embezzle.

While we're on the subject of sending the wrong message, no word on what the Philadelphia archdiocese has done to tighten up their internal controls in the wake of this situation. Authorities became aware something was up when American Express contacted them with concerns that Guzzardi used church checks to pay her credit card bills, which sometimes topped $29,000 a month. Apparently she also used 146 church checks to pay her Chase credit card bills during the same time period. ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY SIX checks, people. What is so difficult about these non-profits understanding the basic rules of fraud? We aren't talking some complicated scheme here, we're talking about someone with access to the church's checkbook paying her credit card bills with the church's money for YEARS. An audit intern could uncover that on their first day, come on now.

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