Secretary pleads guilty to embezzling thousands from church

A Granger woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to using the postal service to help embezzle $119,000 from a South Bend church she worked at for eight years.

54-year-old Jayne Loprest admitted her guilt as part of a plea deal in district court.

Loprest worked as a secretary at Hilltop Lutheran Church from 2001-2009.

When the church’s bank contacted leaders about an overdraft fee in 2009, they found out they were nearly bankrupt.

For several years, Loprest had been transferring money out of the bank’s investment account. She would have the checks delivered to the church, then deposit them into their spend account and use the money for personal expenses.

Some of the embezzled funds were used to pay St. Joseph County taxes on her Granger home.

Church leaders confronted Loprest about the embezzlement in 2009 and she apologized.

If the plea deal is accepted by the judge, Loprest will be sentenced Sept. 13.

Hilltop Church released the following statement:

“Today is one more step in a long journey toward justice. Hilltop Lutheran Church was shocked by Jayne Loprest’s embezzlement of church funds over many years. Loprest was a highly trusted long-time employee of Hilltop and judged by many members to be a close friend.

Church officials indicate the real victims were “the hungry”, “the homeless”, those individuals that never received our mission dollars due to Loprest’s actions over many years.

Legal justice for Hilltop shall be determined by the judicial system, hopefully focusing on restitution and no-recurrence of Loprest’s actions.”

Hilltop filed a civil suit against Loprest, but it was dropped when she agreed to pay back the $119,000.

Loprest could face up to 20 years in prison and be forced to pay a fine of up to $250,000 as punishment.

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