St. Joseph Conference treasurer in Cottleville pleads guilty to embezzlement
Nancy O’Donnell, of St. Peters, has entered a guilty plea to mail fraud involving her embezzlement of donor funds.
According to court documents, St. Joseph Catholic Church of Cottleville was a Catholic Church in operation for over 100 years. The St. Vincent de Paul Society was a non-profit organization providing personal assistance with furniture, food, clothing, rent, utilities and other necessities to people facing economic and other crises. The St. Joseph Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is comprised of lay Catholic volunteers collecting and distributing donations to those in need within the St. Joseph parish. Monetary donations are made to the St. Joseph Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society through cash and by check primarily from St. Joseph parishioners.
O’Donnell served as the treasurer for the St. Joseph Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society since October 2005. As treasurer, she was in charge of financial record keeping for the Society, including receiving donations and payments by cash and check, documenting payments received, depositing funds to the Society’s bank account and documenting the use of donated funds. The St. Joseph Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society had an authorized bank account for the receipt and disbursement of donations under the Society’s actual address. On April 27, 2006, O’Donnell opened a sham checking account in the name of the St. Joseph Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, using her own personal residence address as the business address for this sham account. The Board of Directors of the Society had no knowledge that she had opened this sham account and did not authorize the opening of the account. In opening the sham account, she completed and executed an unauthorized corporate resolution on behalf of the Society, and completed and executed paperwork so that she was the only authorized signer on the sham account. She also maintained a personal checking account in her own name.
As treasurer of the Society, O’Donnell received donations from individuals by cash or check made out to the Society and, instead of depositing those cash or check donations into the Society’s authorized account, she deposited those cash and check donations either into the unauthorized sham account or into her personal account. O’Donnell then wrote checks on both the sham account and the personal account either to herself or to “cash” thereby embezzling, misappropriating and stealing those donated funds, which she used for her own personal purposes, unrelated to the business of the Society. O’Donnell also wrote checks on the Society’s authorized account and deposited those checks into both the sham account and into her personal account, using the funds for personal expenses.
In order to conceal her scheme, all treasurer’s reports prepared by O’Donnell and provided by her to the Society included only information from the authorized account and no information from the unauthorized sham account. Further, in order to conceal her scheme, all account statements and correspondence relative to the sham account were mailed to her at her personal residence address, rather than to the Society’s true business address.
O’Donnell pled guilty to one felony count of mail fraud before United States District Judge John A. Ross. Sentencing has been set for Jan. 24, 2013.
Mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000.
In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
This case was investigated by the Cottleville Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Hal Goldsmith is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.