Church Employee Sentenced to 5 ½ Years for Embezzlement
A former church bookkeeper has been sentenced to five and a half years in federal prison for using church funds for personal enrichment, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham.
Lisa Dawn Stabeno, 52, pleaded guilty in May to two counts of bank fraud. She was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix, who lamented her “brazen thefts” and ordered her to pay $450,000 in restitution.
According to court documents, Ms. Stabeno embezzled more than $450,000 from Church on the Rock, a non-denominational religious institution serving more than 3,400 parishioners in Lubbock.
In plea papers, Ms. Stabeno admitted that she began embezzling from the church in November 2013, just four months after assuming accounting responsibilities.
She began by using two credit cards – one assigned to a church employee and one assigned to a pastor – to pay personal expenses, including a car loan she co-financed with her daughter, medical and dental expenses, clothing, salon services, and restaurant meals. She also used the credit cards to purchase supplies for a bakery she co-owned with her daughters.
Beginning in 2014, Ms. Stabeno began making payments to herself with church credit cards using Square, a digital point-of-sale payment system which processes payments from credit cards run through a port connected to a cell phone.
In 2015, Ms. Stabeno opened two credit cards, one in her own name and one in her daughter’s name, which she used for personal expenses. She then paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card debt on the cards using money from church bank accounts, including its general operating account, and its “Dream Center” ministry account.
She also used the personal credit cards to make “purchases” and payroll at her bakery, then paid off the cards with money from the church accounts, thus boosting the bakery’s sales and profits and raising her daughters’ salaries.
The church discovered Ms. Stabeno’s fraud in the summer of 2018 and terminated her employment.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office, Lubbock Resident Agency, conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Howey prosecuted the case.