Catholic missionary group rebounds with embezzlement settlement

Two former employees of a Catholic missionary group charged with embezzling from the nonprofit have agreed to an $869,000 civil settlement.

The settlement came after the Lay Mission-Helpers Assn. sued Charles T. Sebesta, its former director of development, and his assistant, Christine Lynn Rowe, in an effort to recover the nearly $180,000 they were charged with embezzling.

Sebesta and Rowe were arrested in May and charged with grand theft. According to the lawsuit, the pair used a bank account set up in the name of Sebesta’s son, as well as fake e-mail accounts and invoices, to divert approximately $177,942 to themselves.

They have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

“This settlement will enable Lay Mission-Helpers to continue to bless lives as they go about their mission to help the under-served throughout the world,” said Steven M. Garber, the attorney who represented the nonprofit.

Garber said the organization was able to obtain a temporary restraining order seizing control of real property owned by one of the defendants, which was, at the time, listed for sale for close to $3 million.

“It was just a matter of time before the defendants agreed to the terms of the settlement,"  he added.

According to the suit, Sebesta was hired as director of development in 2013 to run the fundraising activities, including its annual giving, endowment and donor cultivation.

Twitter: @lacrimes