A former employee of a Texas church was sentenced this month to five and a half years in prison and ordered to repay her employer after she was convicted of embezzling $450,000 to pay for personal expenses.
On November 18, Lisa Dawn Stabeno, 52, was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty in May to two counts of bank fraud for stealing money when she worked as the accounting manager for Church of the Rock in Lubbock. The church has more than 3,400 members.
Stabeno began using credit cards in November 2013, just four months after becoming the church’s bookkeeper, she said.
She used credit cards assigned to a church employee and to a pastor to pay for personal expenses, “including a car loan she co-financed with her daughter, medical and dental expenses, clothing, salon services, and restaurant meals,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas. She also used the cards to “purchase supplies for a bakery she co-owned with her daughters,” the attorney’s office said.
In 2014, she began using the digital payment company Square to make payments to herself using the credit cards.
In 2015, she opened two personal credit cards – one in her name and another in her daughter’s name, and then paid off the debt using church accounts.
“She then paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card debt on the cards using money from church bank accounts, including its general operating account and its ‘Dream Center’ ministry account,” the attorney’s office said. The church’s Dream Center offers a ministry for disadvantaged people.
She also used church funds to pay off expenses and to make payroll at a bakery she co-owned.
The church discovered the fraud in 2018.
She apologized during sentencing, crying as she talked.
“You were trusted with accounts and misappropriated funds,” U.S. District Court Judge James Wesley Hendrix told her, according to EverythingLubbock.com. “You did it again, and again and again.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Efetova
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.