What Is Church Embezzlement?

Due to the many reports dealing with religious institutions and embezzlement, you may be wondering: What is church embezzlement? According to the Meriam-Webster dictionary, to "embezzle" involves appropriating funds or property for ones own use. Therefore, church embezzlement means that funds or properties donated to a religious organization are misappropriated for the personal use or advantage of those in charge. Moreover, church embezzlement can take various forms.

Misuse of collection funds equals embezzlement. Church member generally donate to their religious institution to help care for expenses associated with the use of the building and its maintenance. When a person or persons in charge take collection money for their personal use and don’t record it in their books, the result is church embezzlement.

Misuse of a church debit card also translates to church embezzlement. Another form of embezzlement in a church is when a pastor or church staff member uses the debit card to pay for personal expenses, such as lunch, snacks, bills or entertainment. Furthermore, using the debit card to pay for gas for the family car, personal trips and furnishings for his home are forms of embezzlement. 
Forged checks is another form of church embezzlement. This form of embezzlement occurs when a church member writes checks to vendors or contractors. He endorses the checks himself and then deposits the check in his own bank account. 
Misappropriation of church property is embezzlement. If a member donates a property to the church and the pastor or another church member uses that property or sells it and takes the proceeds for his own use, he is guilty of church embezzlement.
Church embezzlement can occur without the person knowing it. However, embezzlement generally requires premeditation. A person guilty of embezzlement normally takes precautions to avoid detection. Church embezzlement is a serious charge. If found guilty, a person can spend prison time.  



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