Police: Bookkeeper stole more than $248,000 from church

MIFFLINTOWN – On Monday morning, a 59-year-old volunteer bookkeeper for Saint Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church in Mifflintown was arrested on theft charges for systematically stealing more than $248,000 from the church over a seven-year period beginning in 2005.

Mary Madeline Zangrilli, of Mifflintown, was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Barbara Lyter and charged with theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds. Zangrilli remains free on $250,000 unsecured bail and she is represented by Steven Manbeck. A preliminary hearing is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

A private investigator and Pennsylvania State Police Lewistown conducted the investigation, which lead to the discovery of more than 300 questionable checks made out to “cash” or to Zangrilli from the church’s bank account at Juniata Valley Bank, according to court documents. The checks ranged in amounts from $21.34 to $500, with a vast majority being more than $400, according to documents. The first check was dated Dec. 25, 2005.

Zangrilli was confronted by investigators and admitted to converting the funds for her own personal use, police said.

In addition, it was discovered Zangrilli had been taking cash from the church. Zangrilli stated she took cash every week from Dec. 26, 2005 until Nov. 20, 2012, including from the church’s tithe fund, which among other things, is used to help needy parishoners, police said.

Investigators also looked into 88 suspicious checks in the Saint Jude Capital Campaign account at First National Bank. These checks were also made out to Zangrilli or “cash” and ranged in amounts from $318 to $905, according to court documents.

Zangrilli told investigators she initially took the money to help with personal and medical expenses because her husband had lost his job and she and her husband are both disabled, according to documents. But Zangrilli also admitted to taking two cruises during this time period, documents state.

Zangrilli claimed she initially intended to replace the money, documents state. But as time went on and she had not been caught, Zangrilli said taking the money became “an addiction,” according to court documents.

The investigation concluded Zangrilli had a minimum of $2,000 of income per month from a source other than her Social Security and a pension. All told, Zangrilli is alleged to have stolen $248,176.93 from the church, police said.