Couple Charged with Stealing $174,000 from Church

KINGSTON -- A former church secretary and her husband are now facing charges of stealing from a church in Luzerne County.

They face theft and conspiracy charges after police say they stole nearly $175,000 from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Wyoming Avenue in Kingston.

Police say Cherie White, 44, and her husband Keith White, 51, stole more than $174,000 from the church since 2010.

Cherie worked as a secretary, in charge of handling the church's finances while her husband served as the church board president. But the church's board started looking into how the money was being spent after receiving a past due notice for electric bills.

Court papers show Cherie later admitted to police she would give herself extra paychecks, used a church debit card for personal expenses, and would even take some of the donations made to the church during offerings on Saturdays for herself.

Her husband is also accused of stealing some of the money.

"It came as a shock to a lot of us, it did," said church member Sarah Seltzer. "We never expected it, a lot of us are close to her and we never expected it."

"Certainly, this is not the first time the church has been stolen from, lied to and betrayed, and we will rise above this," said Pastor Paul Metzloff, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

"By jeopardizing the future of the church, they put an entire community at risk," said Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Gregory Skibitsky.

"I am not aware of any communications they had," said the Whites' attorney Peter Moses, when asked if they had asked the church for forgiveness. "As you know, we tell our clients not to say anything without us."

Newswatch 16 asked the church's pastor if he could forgive the two if they're found guilty.

"That's a very interesting question. Christ preaches forgiveness for everything, and that's something we grapple with," said Pastor Metzloff.

Cherie and Keith White were released on $50,000 unsecured bail. Their preliminary hearings are set for next month.


  • jacksincharge

    Notice that the good pastor didn’t say yes to a straight forward question. Things get murky when you test the doctrine like that.

    • Marty Marsh

      No test, they are dealing with people they know very well and can’t believe it, once they get over that, because they are still human, everything will be fine.

    • Bill K

      Forgive? Possibly. But with that much $$ involved the state will prosecute. It won’t be up to the Church to say yes or no about that.

      • justiceserved

        Forgiveness is a formality so our own souls don’t eat us alive! Forgiveness is never a consent form, and Grace is never a license. Jesus forgave us, so we forgive others, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences or that one can sin and ask forgiveness every nano-second. That makes a mockery of the Faith and the Blood of Christ. .

  • Bill K

    “since 2010”. You mean they haven’t audited the books since 2010? When will these Churches, volunteer organizations and fire departments learn? They all think “Oh, that’s Bob. Bob would ~never~ do anything like that to us!” Wanna bet? Auditing the books isn’t difficult at all. Unless you’re a huge organization you don’t need a CPA or any “computer specialists”. I did it for a Church for two years. First of all, have two people do the collection each Sunday. Keep the collection plate in full view of the entire congregation. Two people count the collection plate independently. Each fills out a report showing how much was collected and what fund (if any) they go in to. Then the reports are compared. This prevents anyone from pocketing directly from the collection. Once every quarter audit the books. Pull the bank statements, cancelled checks, pull the collection audit slips, pull the invoices. Bounce them all off each other. You don’t have to research every invoice, just a statistical sample. If you have 100 invoices for the month, audit maybe 20 of them. Our Priest has a discretionary fund. This is the hardest one to audit as there’s a LOT of confidentiality involved there. But again, the Priest should have a receipt book to account for any cash disbursements. Which should be rarely if ever done.

      • Bill K

        Dude, did you even READ my comment? Yeah, I DO know a lot about this because I sat on the board of a Church before. I audited books for several organizations before. Part of my job deals with information and physical security. No idea what gave you the idea I’m “dipping in the till”. Perhaps I should suggest you’re dipping in to something as well. Take that to mean whatever you think it does.

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