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Rip-Off Alert: Church volunteer cooks books to help herself

Reported by: Marie Mortera
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Updated: 8/07/2013 7:52 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV -- It was an elaborate scheme: Steal tens of thousands of dollars -- some of it intended for the hungry and homeless -- and hope no one would notice.

But in this Rip-Off Alert, the con artist was caught and her victims are angry.

Paul McFann calls Jane Loprest, the former secretary and treasurer of his church’s council “up among the top liars I’ve ever met.”

Loprest stole more than $119,000 from the church.

“She had endeared herself to many,” McFann said. “She’s extremely intelligent, extremely personable, very knowledgeable with technology. Most importantly, her ability to help others.”

McFann, the president of the church council, says Loprest used those traits to gain people’s trust – then began raiding church accounts.

“She would cut checks to herself, she would increase her pay,” McFann said. “She increased her pay, doubled or tripled her pay.”

“She covered her tracks really well,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Laura Carter. “There were never any accounts that the church was overdrawn because of the way she was conducting the scheme.”

Postal inspectors used surveillance photos from the bank used by the church to track deposits and withdrawals.

They found that Loprest would write checks but never issue them. So, the books would appear correct, but she was actually taking the cash for herself.

“There were a number of contributions and causes – people in need – that were never met because the checks were never sent,” McFann said. “Someone was hungry, they didn’t get to eat. Someone was homeless didn’t get shelter. Those are the most disturbing.”

The church’s bank notified officials when they found several discrepancies. When confronted, Loprest confessed.

“I really believe it was a chess game,” McFann said. “She loved the challenge. ‘How long can I get by with this? What new approaches can I use?’ ”

Postal inspectors say oversight is key for any organization, whether it’s for-profit or non-profit.

“Conduct annual audit with a CPA,” Carter said. “Volunteers are great, but you need that CPA to give you what’s going on with your books.”

Loprest pleaded guilty and spent one year in jail. She also was ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution to the church.



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