NEWNAN, Ga. – A former church bookkeeper was sentenced to two years in prison after embezzling over $400,000 from her employer.
Alana Vines was hired as a temporary bookkeeper at a Peachtree City Church in March 2013 before becoming full-time in August 2013.
U.S. Attorney Byung Pak said she wrote checks, paid bills, made electronic bank transfers, and prepared financial statements while in the position.
An outside auditor discovered the crime when he was hired to examine the books.
Instead of the money going for capital improvement projects at the church, the thief used the church checking account to make personal purchases on Amazon to buy pool supplies, video equipment and golfing equipment.
“An auditor came to look at the books and that’s when they found that she had been stealing as early as her first day of employment. She did an incredible job covering up what she took,” Bryant said. “People were hurt, angry, as you can imagine. People were dipping into their retirement accounts to pay for the capital campaign — and missions and ministry of the church and they first thought, ‘what happened to my money?'”
“We hope that today’s federal prison sentence will bring some solace to the church and its members, and deter others who might consider stealing from vulnerable victims like churches and charitable organizations,” Pak said.
Vines was sentenced to two years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $420,620.07. Vines was also convicted of wire fraud in December 2017 after she pleaded guilty.
She wrote a letter of apology to the church after being sentenced, saying what she did, “was a truly selfish act that I not only regret because I got caught — but also because of the pain it caused all of you.”
The church says going through this was a lot like going through grief. First there’s denial, then there’s anger, and finally acceptance. They said they have forgiven her, but she still has to pay for what she did.”