SCRANTON — A woman who oversaw donations meant for the poor allegedly took a lot of that money for herself.
Investigators say the woman who spent years working for the Diocese of Scranton stole more than $300,000.
That employee, Sharon Warunek, of Scranton, worked for the Diocese of Scranton for almost thirty years. She was an office coordinator in charge of charitable donations for Catholic missions which help the poor. But investigators with the Lackawanna County D.A.’s office say Warunek used those donations as her own personal bank account.
Over the course of 27 years, Warunek likely saw hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of checks cross her desk as an employee of the diocese.
The checks she was responsible for were charitable donations meant for Catholic missions to benefit the poor but, according to investigators, when Warunek deposited those checks, she then turned around and used that money to pay her credit card bills.
In august, a Catholic deacon discovered a check for $6,000 made out to a credit card company the diocese doesn’t have an account with. The district attorney’s office got involved and uncovered dozens of similar checks cashed over the course of seven years.
Investigators say Warunek was responsible for that bank account and now is facing felony theft charges. Warunek was fired from the diocese before her arraignment in Lackawanna County Court and the bishop of the Diocese of Scranton issued this statement:
“Despite the sad reality that there will always be individuals who seek to exploit and circumvent whatever system that is in place, we must remain vigilant in our oversight of the resources entrusted to our care.”
Prosecutors say they were only able to charge Warunek with seven years’ worth of fraudulent charges but they suspect she had been stealing money for longer than that.
“It’s alleged that there was another card and two people, one in addition to her, were making charges: personal charges, craft stores, restaurants, None of it was used for the benefit of the church,” said Lackawanna County A.D.A. Stephanie Tigue.
Diocese officials say the alleged theft was discovered while the diocese was making changes to its oversight of financial accounts, and since then, the account that Sharon Warunek was in charge of is now the responsibility of the head financial officer for the diocese.
Warunek was arraigned and released on $25,000 bail.