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Press Release

Foley Woman Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Embezzling Church Funds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Alabama

MOBILE, AL – A Foley woman was sentenced to 60 months in prison for wire fraud in connection with her embezzlement of more than $200,000 from a church where she worked.

According to court documents, Sharon Collins, 53, was employed by the First Baptist Church in Foley between May 2007 and July 2019, during which time she served as the church’s financial secretary. In that role, Collins was responsible for, among other things, managing the church’s accounting system, preparing financial reports, creating and providing financial statements to the church’s leadership, and managing church-issued credit cards meant to be used solely for the church’s benefit.

During her time as financial secretary, Collins embezzled $209,744.61 of church funds through unauthorized use of church-issued credit cards. In connection with her guilty plea, Collins admitted that between 2008 and 2019, she made hundreds of electronic transactions for her benefit and the benefit of her friends and family. Among other things, Collins fraudulently used church-issued credit cards to pay for personal expenses, to purchase trips to New Orleans and Las Vegas, to book a cruise, to buy jewelry, and to fund a bachelor’s degree. Collins’s fraudulent credit card transactions transmitted interstate wire signals in furtherance of her fraud scheme, in violation of federal law.

Investigators interviewed Collins in August 2020 with her attorneys present. Collins admitted that during the interview, she made several false statements obstructing the investigation and prosecution of her crimes. Among other things, Collins admitted that she lied about having the church’s approval to make various personal expenditures.

United States District Judge Terry F. Moorer ordered Collins to serve a three-year term of supervised release upon her release from prison, during which time she will receive mental health evaluation and treatment and will be subject to credit restrictions. The court did not impose a fine, but Judge Moorer ordered Collins to pay $209,744.61 in victim restitution and $1,200 in special assessments.

U.S. Attorney Sean P. Costello of the Southern District of Alabama made the announcement.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bishop Ravenel and Justin Roller prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.

Updated February 22, 2023