Woman Who Stole $1M From Church Heads To Prison

Religion and BeliefCrime, Law and JusticeCrimeTheftChristianityRoman CatholicismNorth Riverdale

She stole a million dollars that was intended to be used to help people in need. Instead, she helped herself, and now Anita Collins, 68, is in prison on Rikers Island after she pled guilty to embezzling seven figures from the Roman Catholic Church, and using the money to carry out a childlike fantasy.

Collins wrote 450 checks, made out to her son, for an average of $2220.00 each while she was employed by the Archdiocese of New York from 2004 to 2011. Her checks, from the archdiocese's education department on the East Side in Midtown, totaled approximately $1,073,000 over the seven years she worked there. She will serve a prison sentence of approximately the same length of time, four and-a-half to nine years, for the crime to which she pled guilty.

The checks' amounts were just below the $2500 threshold required for a supervisor's approval for them to be written. Also, Collins confessed to claiming in her department's check logbook false reasons for writing the checks, including entries for supplies and other incidentals.

She also admitted to using the money to buy clothes from high-end retailers, including Brooks Brothers and Barneys. She also bought, over the course of years, according to prosecutors, $19,000 in Irish clothes and gifts from one shop, Mary-Ann's Irish Gift Shop, in North Riverdale in the Bronx.

But possibly her most remarkable expenditure was on a doll collection. Collins was so obsessed with owning top-of-the-line dolls from tony manufacturers like Madame Alexander, and museum-quality stuffed animals from producers like the Sieff Company, that investigators ended up seizing more than twenty evidence boxes of the items that are usually cherished by children.

The proceeds from their resale will go toward repaying the money she embezzled, but it is not expected to go far. The toys' value in their current condition is estimated to be in the $50,000 range. Fortunately, the archdiocese has insurance to protect it from situations like this.

This is not Collins's first such situation, as it turns out. In 1986, she was convicted of misdemeanor theft from an employer. She was convicted again, 13 years later, in 1996, of felony theft from an employer in the amount of $50,000. She was serving probation on that conviction when she was hired by the archdiocese. It had not yet implemented a policy of background checks on employees. It was put in place in 2005, the year after Collins was hired.

She will serve a minimum of four and-a-half years, and her sentence begins immediately. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office did not return calls as to whether or not Collins's son, to whom she wrote the checks from which she eventually benefited, will be prosecuted.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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