Magazine article The Christian Century

Former Episcopal Treasurer Pleads Guilty

Magazine article The Christian Century

Former Episcopal Treasurer Pleads Guilty

Article excerpt

The former treasurer of the Episcopal Church admitted January 24 in a federal court in Newark, New Jersey, that she embezzled more than $1.5 million from the church and evaded income taxes on part of the stolen money. Ellen F. Cooke, 52, who served as the denomination's top financial officer from 1986 to 1995, pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transfer of stolen money and one count of tax evasion.

Cooke faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the first count, and five years and a $250,000 fine on the second. Prosecutors and attorneys for Cooke have agreed as part of her plea arrangement that she should serve between 31 and 46 months in prison. Her final sentence will be up to Judge Maryanne Trump Barry. Sentencing is scheduled for April 29. Cooke, who earned $125,000 annually, resigned as treasurer of the 2.5-million-member denomination in January 1995, and in May church officials accused her of embezzling about $2.2 million in church funds.

According to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Newark, Cooke admitted to Barry that she had abused her position as treasurer since 1990. Cooke said she stole Episcopal funds by depositing checks written on church bank accounts into her personal bank accounts and by using church money to pay for personal credit card bills and for private schools her children attended. She also acknowledged that she charged personal expenses on her Episcopal Church American Express credit card.

The U.S. attorney's office said Cooke told the judge that in May 1994 she oversaw the transfer of $76,464 from a church operating account in Washington, D.C., to her personal Merrill Lynch account in New Jersey. Cooke also admitted that she filed a false 1993 tax return by not reporting more than $146,000 in taxes owed. She acknowledged in court that she reported a 1993 income of $178,192 when she actually had an income of more than $489,000.

In a statement addressed to the church, Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning said he was "enormously relieved that we have reached this almost final stage in the process that began February 7, 1995, when the first signs of financial irregularity came to light.....I personally have faced the difficult fact that this was ultimately my responsibility. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.