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Treasurer at Montco Church Charged With Embezzlement

By Brad Segall and Steve Patterson

HATFIELD, Pa. (CBS) -- The former treasurer of a Montgomery County church is under arrest today, accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from her congregation.

According to prosecutors, officials at the Emmanuel Evangelical Congregational Church in Hatfield started to become suspicious when they got phone calls saying their bills weren't being paid.

There was an investigation, and authorities say that led to the arrest of Stephanie Kligge, the church's treasurer for a year.

"Anger, disbelief, you wonder how someone could do this," Pastor Glenn Lambert said.

Montgomery County prosecutor Jeremy Lupo says Kligge made unauthorized bank withdrawals and stole money to buy gift cards she never turned over to the church.

And he says she went to great lengths to cover it up:

"The most egregious one is that she would provide the board of trustees with fake treasurer reports indicating that they had over $100,000 in cash in their accounts when, in real actuality, they had almost no money left."

The total amount stolen, Lupo says, was just over $81,000.

"It's essentially 90 percent of what we had, in cash assets," Lambert said.

The pastor calls the theft a monumental betrayal to a house of worship.

"That is my greatest hurt for the congregation, that it is just a tremendous break of trust," he said.

Church Board President Greg Finnemeyer discovered money was missing after unpaid bills started to pile up.

"Totally shocking and totally unexpected, unanticipated," he said.

Shocking because Kligge was lauded as a generous, lifelong member of the church before she was placed as treasurer, but bank statements indicate that changed quickly.

"Within about four days began to make withdraws of $75, $80 that turned into later on, you know, $750," Finnemeyer said.

"This really won't change anything as far as our purpose in this community. God doesn't need our money, he needs our hearts," Lambert said.

Police say she used the money to pay medical bills and everyday expenses.  Bail was set at $25,000 cash.

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