VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (ABP) -- The former financial of a Virginia Baptist Church has been arrested on charges that she embezzled nearly $300,000 in church funds over the course of years.
Police say Michele M. Roberts, 61, stole $287,678 from King's Grant Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Va., between October 2004 and March of this year. Though not a member of the church, Roberts worked 12 years as financial administrator before resigning in May with the explanation that it was time to move on to the next phase of her life.
"I don't think that she ever thought that the next phase might include prison," Pastor Skip Wallace said Aug. 12, three days after Roberts' arrest.
Wallace said Roberts knew the congregation's system and hid her trail well. Nobody had any idea the money was missing until the new financial administrator happened upon it three weeks ago.
"We were trying to find out where we could do a better job of stewardship, and she found some irregularities in our books," he said.
Church leaders reported the alleged theft to the economic crimes unit of the Virginia Beach Police Department Aug. 4. Roberts was arrested Aug. 9 in Fredericksburg, Va., and transported to the Virginia Beach Correctional Center, where she was held without bond.
As financial administrator, Roberts handled duties including payroll, accounts receivable, and accounts payable. Bank statements indicate she made checks payable to herself and provided false financial statements to the church treasurer.
Wallace said members of the church who know Roberts well are still in shock. Since she is not a church member, only those who came in to the office regularly knew her well. Due to her long tenure, she had a high trust level with church leaders, including Wallace, who worked four years as minister education at the church before assuming the pastor position in 2007.
Organized in 1965, the 550-member church is affiliated with the Norfolk Baptist Association, Baptist General Association of Virginia, the state and national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Southern Baptist Convention.
"This is a great congregation and we believe that we will be stronger as a result of this," Wallace said. He cited Romans 8:28, which in the Holman Christian Standard Bible says: "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose."