Zangrilli heads to prison

MIFFLINTOWN – A sheriff’s deputy escorted the former bookkeeper of Saint Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church out of the Juniata County Court of Common Pleas on Monday so she could begin to serve her state prison sentence.

Mary Zangrilli, 60, was sentenced by Judge Kenneth A. Mummah to serve a minimum of two years and maximum of seven years at a state correctional facility for stealing $252,787 from the Mifflintown church over a period of six years. Zangrilli will be eligible for early release in 18 months. Zangrilli previously entered a guilty plea to two felony theft charges.

She was also ordered to pay restitution for the full amount she stole.

Mummah said although God will forgive Zangrilli, she still “owes a debt to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Mummah also said Zangrilli’s crime was an “egregious” one and “inexcusable.”

Both a private investigator and the Pennsylvania State Police conducted an investigation, which lead to the finding of more than 300 questionable checks made out to “cash” or to Zangrilli from the church’s bank account with Juniata Valley Bank. The first check was dated Dec. 25, 2005.

Zangrilli was confronted by investigators and admitted to converting the funds for her personal use, which included two cruises, 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 money from the church’s tithe fund.

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.”

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

The investigation concluded Zangrilli had a minimum income of $2,000 per month from a source other than her legitimate sources – Social Security and a pension.

Prior to the start of court proceedings on Monday, Rev. William Weary walked over to where Zangrilli was sitting in the courtroom and shook her hand, as well as that of her husband and son. Weary sat with nearly 20 parishoners who showed up for the sentencing on Monday.

Her son, Travis Zangrilli, was among the first to address the court prior to sentencing and asked Mummah to consider an alternative sentence, in light of his mother’s medical condition. He also said he and his father had no knowledge of the ongoing theft.

He said his mother has, among other ailments, Lupus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and arthritis.

“My mother is truly sorry for her actions,” Travis Zangrilli said.

He said his mother also wrote an open letter to the parish apologizing for her actions and asking for forgiveness. The letter was published in the parish newsletter earlier this year.

Weary was the next to speak and said the funds taken by Zangrilli had a direct effect on increasing the church’s debt load, causing the church to take an additional loan simply to cover expenses and pay bills.

Weary said the church’s insurance company covered the theft, but they also dropped them from coverage as a result.

Weary said he has spoken to Zangrilli and visited her and her family at their home, and forgives her, but would also like to see justice.

Weary said Zangrilli’s actions not only affected the church, but also local charities who receive money from the church, including the Juniata County Food Bank.

Juniata County Crime Victims Coordinator Sylvia Middaugh read another statement on behalf of a parishioner, Diane Logan.

Middaugh said Logan feels a great deal of “sorrow” and feels “betrayed” by Zangrilli.

Middaugh said she received 25 victim impact statements from parishioners about the case.

Zangrilli also addressed the court and again apologized to everyone she hurt. She wept as she struggled on several occasions to read her statement to the court.

Zangrilli said she initially started to steal from the church to help pay for her husband’s medication and it escalated from there.

Zangrilli said she thinks about what she did every day.

“It’s the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about before I go to bed,” she said.

“I truly do love Saint Jude,” Zangrilli added.

Zangrilli said she cooperated with the investigation and felt relieved after being caught.

“I’m truly sorry for my crime and not because I got caught,” she said. “From the beginning, I knew and excepted the fact that I would go to prison.”