Houston Woman Sentenced to Prison for Defrauding the Catholic Church
HOUSTON – A 38-year-old Houston woman has been ordered to prison for submitting falsified fund requests to an investment adviser for the Basilian Father’s Missions of the Catholic Church (BFM), announced U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick. Rosina K. Blanco pleaded guilty Oct. 24, 2017, to one count of wire fraud.
Today, U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas ordered her to prison for a total of 41 months. The sentence will be immediately followed by three years of supervised release, during which time she can hold no job that has financial responsibilities or access to sensitive or confidential information. She was further ordered to pay $1,107,425.91 in restitution.
At the hearing, the court found Blanco caused more than $1 million in unauthorized transfers from BFM accounts to accounts in her name. The court also heard about the effect Blanco’s criminal behavior has had on the BFM, who offered a victim impact statement describing the deleterious effect to the relationship of trust between the BFM and its donors and noting they had likely lost donations as a result of Blanco’s scheme.
Blanco accomplished the theft by using a computer to transmit fraudulent and falsified funds transfer requests from the Southern District of Texas to the BFM investment manager in St. Louis who then unwittingly transferred more than $1 million in BFM funds.
“From a position of great trust, this woman placed greater importance on her dog than on the children many parishioners and donors worked hard to support,” said Patrick. “She decided to treat herself to designer handbags and thousands of dollars on doggy spa treatments. Brazen theft of this magnitude is disgraceful.”
The BFM is headquartered in Sugar Land and raises money in North America to support schools in Mexico and Colombia. It reports to the Congregation of St. Basil, an order of Catholic priests headquartered in Toronto, Canada. The BFM receives funding from several sources to include the Congregation of St. Basil in Canada, individual mail solicitations and mission offerings.
On Aug. 31, 2015, Blanco was hired to be the bookkeeper for the BFM. From September 2015 to October 2016, Blanco facilitated the transfer of approximately $1,107,425 from BFM accounts to her personal accounts without authorization. Instead of the funds going for mission and ministry work among disadvantaged people in Colombia and Mexico, Blanco instead used the majority of the money for personal expenses such as jewelry, furniture, luxury cars, real estate, Louis Vuitton handbags, goods and services for her dog and other luxury items.
She will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Belinda Beek prosecuted the case.