A 72-year-old woman has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for stealing $574k from a Catholic Church to fund her gambling and vacations.

A 72-year-old woman from Indiana, Marie Carson, has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for wire fraud after transferring almost $574,000 from a Catholic Church and its associated school to her personal accounts. The money was used to fund her gambling habit and vacations. Carson had been the sole staff member responsible for handling money at Saint Matthew Catholic Church and School for 13 years. She was responsible for processing checks received from parishioners and conducting financial transactions on behalf of the church and school.

Court documents revealed that from 2008 to 2021, Carson illegally transferred at least $573,836.59, but the actual monetary loss is likely to be much higher. In fact, Carson admitted to church officials that she began her scheme in 2004. Her fraudulent activities were brought to light when her temporary replacement noticed suspicious transfers from the parish’s gaming account to an external bank account while she was on leave from her position.

Further investigation led to the discovery of over $289,000 moved into multiple accounts, including a phantom account in the church’s name. Carson was able to maintain her scheme for so long because she made false entries into the database used by the parish to track payments.

Carson and her husband reportedly used a “significant amount of money” for casino gambling and an annual, month-long vacation to Florida. Her sentence sends a clear message to others who may be considering stealing, defrauding, or embezzling.

In addition to her prison sentence, Carson will be on probation for two years following her release, and she must pay the amount she was convicted of stealing in restitution.

The FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge, Herbert J. Stapleton, said Carson’s scheme was “fueled by pure greed,” and she abused trust to line her own pockets. Stapleton also stated that her deception ultimately landed her behind bars despite the potential short-term benefits.

In 2022, St. Matthew Rev. Msgr. William F. Stumpf informed the parishioners of the theft. His letter said that they had enacted new internal accounting controls to provide assurance that all funds are safeguarded. They carry fidelity insurance to cover fraud and theft losses and have received payment to cover the documented loss. It is with deep sadness to report that these serious events have occurred.