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Woman, 67, Stole More Than $1 Million from Archdiocese

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A woman who worked for the Catholic Archiocese of New York has been charged with breaking the eighth commandment on a grand scale, stealing approximately $1 million from the church.

While Anita Collins may have broken the Thou Shalt Not Steal commandment, the Archdiocese probably broke a fiscal commandment: Do background checks on your employees. This was not the first time Collins had been charged with grand larceny.

According to a statement released by the District Attorney of Manhattan’s office, Collins was charged with grand larceny in the first degree and falsifying business records in the first degree. It will not provide any more information until after Collins’ arraignment.

“This defendant is accused of stealing from the Archdiocese for seven and a half long years,” said District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., in a statement.  "It appears that she only stopped because she finally got caught.”

The church, which is headquartered in the famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral, uncovered the theft, according to a statement released by Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling.

Collins began working for the Archdiocese in 2003 as an accounts payable clerk in its department of education. Her responsibilities included processing invoices, issuing checks and making payments to vendors, which made it possible for her to steal almost a million dollars from her employer.

“The theft that was uncovered was committed by the employee using a sophisticated fraud to manipulate the accounts payable system in the department of education finance office,” a statement from the Archdiocese said.

Collins issued hundreds of checks payable to “KB Collins.” She would generate the unauthorized checks by entering a legitimate vendor’s name into the accounting system, changing the vendor’s name and the payee on the check to “KB Collins” and then changing the vendor’s name back to the legitimate one in the system. This way, the unauthorized checks to Collins remained undetected -- until now.

“The theft was uncovered by the Archdiocese, and our outside auditors, following the implementation of enhanced financial oversight controls and safeguards in 2011,” read a statement issued by the Archdiocese.

After further investigation and the involvement of the Manhattan district attorney, it was determined the amount stolen was approximately $1,073,000.

Church officials conceded that they had not conducted a background check on Collins before hiring her. Collins, who is from the Bronx, was convicted of grand larceny in 1999 and sentenced to community service and five years’ probation.

Zwilling said pre-employment background checks for all employees began shortly after Collins was hired in 2003. She was fired in December.

The Archdiocese said it would tighten its fiscal controls.

“Because the archdiocese seeks to always be good stewards of the money entrusted to us, we are continually working to improve our financial controls in order to prevent such occurrences from happening,” the statement said. “Sadly, there will always be individuals who seek to exploit and circumvent whatever system is established, but we will remain vigilant in our oversight.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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