A former secretary was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday for embezzling over $200,000 from a Baptist church in Alabama.
U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer sentenced Sharon Collins, the former financial secretary at First Baptist Church in Foley, Alabama, to five years behind bars, WALA reported. Moorer also ordered Collins, 54, to pay back the $209,745 she embezzled from the church and to receive a mental health evaluation and treatment.
Collins worked for the church for over twelve years, from 2007 to 2019. During her employment, she would use the church’s credit cards to pay off random expenses, bills, travel costs and even college tuition, according to the outlet.
Joseph Landry, who previously served as a pastor at First Baptist Church of Foley, said Collins used the stolen church funds to fly to Las Vegas and Disney World and to put deposits down for Caribbean cruises, WALA reported.
Landry said the stolen money meant that other employees’ salaries suffered and that the church was unable to support missionaries., the outlet noted (RELATED: Former Teachers Union President Charged With Embezzling $400,000)
The current senior pastor at First Baptist, Rev. Drew Whittington, told the court in a letter that Collins’ actions have severely impacted the church’s reputation, WALA reported. “Dollars can eventually be replaced. But trust and integrity are not so easily repaired,” he said, according to the outlet. “Her actions have damaged the witness and credibility of our church, which has resulted in damage to the perception of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well.”
Collins was fired in July 2019 after she refused to allow the church to access to accounting records on her computer, the Aug. 2022 plea agreement stated, according to WALA.