Saturday, May 18, 2024

Repeat Offender: The Tale of a Woman Accused of Embezzling $465K from a Church


Woman Accused of Stealing $465K from Church Previously Served Prison Time for Theft

The Town of Tonawanda community was rocked by revelations that Lisa Noble, also known as Lisa Prynn amongst other variants, allegedly embezzled $465,000 from St. Amelia Church. Unbeknownst to the church officials at the time of her employment as the business manager, Noble had a past tarnished with criminal activities involving theft from her previous employers.

Rev. Sebastian C. “Sibby” Pierro, the former pastor and one of the hiring officials, expressed his dismay over the betrayal. “You hire someone, you trust someone, and then something like this happens, it’s a real slap in the face,” he lamented.

The Catholic community has faced similar challenges over the past 30 years, with embezzlement cases cropping up despite efforts to implement preventive measures. Lisa Noble’s hiring in March 2023 slipped through the cracks of these measures, as her previous legal troubles and convictions under the name Lisa Prynn were not flagged to the church administration. These included a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1999, judgments against her, and notably, a conviction for grand larceny in Niagara County in 2009.

The conviction stemmed from Noble’s theft of $2,000 from a Lockport location of the Beacon Center, where she served as a billing specialist. Additionally, her criminal record includes an incident of embezzling $5,800 from a medical practice in Monroe County and more than $5,000 from the Erie County chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Following these offenses, a suggestion was made to Noble by Judge Matthew J. Murphy III to avoid roles that involved handling money.

However, less than fifteen years later, Noble found herself overseeing the finances at St. Amelia Church. Her tenure ended six months later when the church discovered the financial discrepancies and terminated her employment. Police are currently attempting to locate and apprehend her.

Rev. Michael LaMarca, the current pastor, explained that a leadership transition at the parish might have indirectly allowed the thefts to occur undetected. The procedures in place for financial management were circumvented, leading to the delayed detection of the crime.

Despite the breach, parish ministries remain unaffected, with LaMarca expressing hope for the recovery of a majority of the stolen funds through bank and insurance claims.

The incident at St. Amelia Church underscores a recurring issue faced by religious and non-profit organizations – the susceptibility to internal theft. Nearly 15 years ago, after significant embezzlement cases were uncovered, the diocese took steps to tighten financial controls. Yet, the successful implementation of these measures remains a challenge, exacerbated by the reliance on volunteer staff and the difficulty in hiring qualified personnel.

Experts in fraud prevention stress the importance of dual control mechanisms, thorough background checks, and minimizing the use of organizational credit cards to prevent such incidents. However, as noted by Peter M. Vito, a member of a committee formed to address these issues, adherence to these recommendations varies greatly across individual parishes.

The case of Lisa Noble at St. Amelia Church serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing need for vigilance and adherence to best practices in financial management to protect the assets of vulnerable organizations.

Alexandra Bennett
Alexandra Bennett
Alexandra Bennett is a seasoned business journalist with over a decade of experience covering the global economy, finance, and corporate strategies. With a Bachelor's degree in Economics and a Master's in Business Journalism from Columbia University, Alexandra has built a reputation for her insightful analysis and ability to break down complex economic trends into understandable narratives. Prior to joining our team, she worked for major financial publications in New York and London. Alexandra specializes in mergers and acquisitions, market trends, and economic

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