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Woman arrested for allegedly stealing $1M from Archdiocese



An ex-clerk of the Archdiocese of New York has been arrested for allegedly stealing $1 million from the Archdiocese over the past seven years, the Manhattan district attorney's office said Monday.

Anita Collins, 67, of the Bronx, worked as a bookkeeper in the Archdiocese's education department and is charged with first-degree grand larceny and first-degree falsifying business records.

Collins, who handled accounts payable, allegedly wrote checks to her son and to other accounts she controlled, and then changed the documentation to make it appear that the checks were written to others for legitimate services, the church said.

She allegedly cut hundreds of checks for less than $2,500, the level that would have required review and approval from a supervision.

Collins was convicted of grand larceny in the third degree in the Bronx in 1999 in a similar scam and was put on probations for five years, officials said.

Joe Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, said the church didn't do background checks on employees when Collins was hired in 2003, and did not know about her conviction.

Collins was fired in December, when the fraud was discovered by the Archdiocese and reported to the Manhattan district attorney's office.

The Archdiocese believes that most of the money that is not recovered will be covered by insurance, and the incident won't require cuts in services.

The church now conducts background checks, and officials promised to tighten their financial controls.

"The Archdiocese seeks to always be good stewards of the money entrusted to us," said Joe Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese.

He added: "Sadly, there will always be individuals who seek to exploit and circumvent whatever system is established, but we will remain vigilant in our oversight."

A lawyer for Collins was not named by press time.

(with Newsday)

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