Couple Pleads Guilty to Theft from Church

WILKES-BARRE -- A couple accused of stealing thousands from a church in Kingston pleaded guilty Wednesday in Luzerne County court.

Cherie and Keith White admitted to stealing close to $175,000 from a church in Kingston.

It was a theft that almost brought the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church to its knees financially. The pastor says the church was almost two years away from shutting its doors.

Court papers show the couple was using the money for themselves.

"We are working for justice, which is also a biblical concept and a good one. Forgiveness is around there. It's something all of us have grappled with," said Pastor Paul Metzloff, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

The two long-time congregants were on the church board for years with Cherie in charge of finances and Keith serving as president.

The pastor says the couple showed no remorse for their actions in court.

"We saw no real emotion on their part at all. They pretty much went up and spoke to the judge and the lawyers and went to their seats and departed."

As part of the plea agreement, Cherie and Keith White will have to pay back the $175,000 they owe but now, the church says they are on much more stable ground without the couple.

"Our finances look much better now than they did before this was discovered, and it's important to mention a very strong positive spirit has been present in the congregation," said the pastor.

Since the thefts, congregants have been working to move the church forward in a positive way. One example of this is what they call a free little library, where anyone can take a book and return it when they want.

"God's love is a free gift so the fact that this free little library is a free gift kind of place, you don't have to have a card, you don't have to check things in and out. It's a gift."

Church members say the theft knocked them back, but it didn't knock them down. The church has always been there for them, and it will continue to do so.

"It helped me an awful lot," said church member Bob Sands. "I went through some tough times recently and it's helped me a great deal."

Cherie and Keith White are currently out on bail and are scheduled to be sentenced in July.

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