A Hopewell woman is behind bars after police say she stole $500,000 from a church she worked for. Chesterfield police arrested 39-year-old Jerri Hunter, accusing her of embezzling money over a period of several years.
Harold Crowder, spokesman with Chester United Methodist Church, first thought the lack of funds may have been due to a weak economy, but it quickly grew into something more. Crowder says the church is trying to seek justice - but with compassion.
"One of the things, being a community in faith, we are in prayer for all of those whose lives have been disrupted by these events," said Crowder.
It's a chain of events Crowder has never seen in his 30-some years at Chester United Methodist - $500,000 stolen from an organization that thrives off its giving and faithful spirit, as any church would.
State Police arrested and charged Jerri Hunter Monday on 11 counts of felony embezzlement. Chesterfield Police Lieutenant Steve Grohowski says more charges are pending.
"The accountants have gone back a few years, but they're going to have to go all the way back to 2008 to really determine what the total amount is," said Grohowski.
According to the church's spokesman, Hunter worked as the Financial Administrator since May of 2007. She was let go this May.
It wasn't until after her termination, staff and volunteers grew suspicious of her money-handling. Crowder says Hunter performed a number of roles including managing checking and credit card accounts and electronic transfers.
That half-a-million dollar shortfall could have funded much-needed renovations and missions work locally and globally according to Crowder.
"All of those things were impacted by the reduction of funds that we had to work with," Crowder noted.
Now the church is working with police and specialized accountants to go back through all the records to figure exactly how much is still missing.
Crowder says Hunter was not a member of the church. Staff cannot confirm if they performed a background check before she was hired. Hunter is being held at Riverside Regional Jail without bond. She's due in court Monday.
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