Archdiocese accountant commits suicide amid embezzlement probe

Archdiocese accountant commits suicide amid embezzlement probe

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – A Louisville Archdiocese accountant was about to be indicted for stealing half a million dollars from three parishes, but the case was halted.

The woman at the center of all, Lisa Roth, took her own life on July 6th, the same week an audit was set to occur.

The Fayette County Coroner's Office in Lexington confirmed that Roth, 60, had committed suicide.

Archdiocese officials said they're using the case as a wakeup call. When it comes to handling church funds, there are specific policies in place.

"We have very clear written procedures about how money is -- cash or non cash gifts are treated, everything from how it is counted, recorded and deposited," Archdiocese Chancellor Dr. Brian Reynolds said.

For nearly 20 years Roth was a trusted accountant for several Catholic churches.

A little more than a month after her death, the Holy Spirit church sent a letter to its parishioners detailing a police investigation. More than $500,000 was missing from three churches.

The Secret Service said Roth made checks out to herself, forged signatures and used the parish's credit cards, all to pay for daily living expenses. She quit her position right before an audit was about to occur.

"The Archdiocese audits every church on a cycle about every three years," Reynolds said. "We also will audit a church at the request of a pastor. Sometimes a new pastor will come in and say we aren't due this year, but I would like a fresh audit. And sometimes if there is a concern that something happened, we will do an audit randomly just to check on things."

Reynolds said every church is required to produce an annual report of its income and expenses.

"The biggest challenge we have when the person doing the finances is the one who is engaged in the fraudulent activity," he said.

Reynolds said the case has prompted the Archdiocese to take a look at all policies, and especially how they track electronic transfers.

"The same person (who signs the checkbook) shouldn't be approving expenditures," Reynolds said. "It's called cross control and cross training. In big parishes that's easier to do. In smaller parishes, that's harder to do, and that's what we are working on now. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again."

The Archdiocese believes that Roth's husband of 27 years, as well as her children, had no idea about the alleged thefts.

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