Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bookkeeper Charged with Stealing $300,000 from Butler County School

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bookkeeper Charged with Stealing $300,000 from Butler County School

Article excerpt

A former Catholic school secretary and bookkeeper was arrested on theft charges after auditors accused her of stealing $315,545 in a years-long scheme involving tuition and gift cards.

State police said Thursday that Lynn M. Tomlinson, 43, of Valencia told them she admitted to embezzlement when confronted by officials at Holy Sepulcher Catholic School in May. The thefts were discovered during a routine follow-up in what appeared to be an unpaid tuition bill, church officials said in a statement Thursday.

Ms. Tomlinson told investigators she used the stolen gift cards and cash to pay bills and, later -- when she "got carried away with the spending" -- to buy clothes and jewelry, state police wrote in a criminal complaint.

She was to be arraigned Thursday on three kinds of theft charges, as well as charges of access device fraud and records tampering.

In a letter to parishioners and school parents, the Rev. John Gizler, pastor of Holy Sepulcher Church, wrote that "major diversions" of school tuition, receipts and fundraising money were revealed during a financial investigation that began after the business manager found the unpaid tuition bill in early 2012.

The Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, said it was learned then that Ms. Tomlinson stole money from the school, though a significant amount less than what she's being charged with now. She asked for forgiveness and promised to pay it back, but the theft was reported to authorities, spurring a diocesan forensic audit from March to November 2012.

In an interview with state police, Ms. Tomlinson said her duties at the school in Middlesex included collecting student tuition checks, assisting the principal and running a fundraising program, in which parents give money to the church in exchange for gift cards, according to the criminal complaint. (Stores give the church gift cards at a discount. …

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