Church worker charged with stealing $259,000 from church

CHICAGO Last October parishioners at Infant Jesus of Prague Church were informed about a problem: That the employee in charge of the money had an apparent gambling problem and that more than $250,000 was missing. Tuesday that employee was arrested.

The quiet neighborhood of Jeffery Manor was upset when police arrived to arrest Beverly Houston Tuesday. Houston is charged with felony theft and forgery. She is alleged to have taken $259,000 from the church where she worked to feed her gambling addiction.

Her family didn't want to talk on camera but tells ABC7 that Houston gambled. But they had no idea the extent. Her neighbors were also caught off guard.

"Just a sad situation, I wished her the best," said Alberta Stallings, neighbor.

"We've been neighbors for year. And I can only say god things about her. You know, I sort of doubt this. Or is it overblown or what? …It's really a surprise" said Charles Randall, neighbor.

Houston was the business manager at Infant Jesus of Prague Catholic Church in Flossmoor. The church's new administrator says she was stealing money from the time she started in April 2006 to October of last year. That's when the church's bank alerted them to an unusual pattern.

"The community has suffered greatly. Some of our ministries have had to change because of the misappropriation of funds so that we are able to continue those as well as we would like. Hopefully we'll be able to reverse that in the near future," said Fr. Francis Cimarusti.

Flossmoor Police started their investigation in October.

"It appears through the investigation these funds were used to supplement her gambling habit," said Deputy Chief Mike Pulec, Flossmoor Police Department.

Officers discovered Houston wrote 144 checks each for thousands of dollars to herself during the year-and-a-half she worked at the church.

"You go by trust, and obviously this trust was misused," said Pulec.

The archdiocese appointed the new administrator and the church is in the process of changing their financial policies to insure this couldn't happen in the future.

Houston appeared in court Wednesday. The judge assigned a $100,000 bond. Her family was trying to post bond.
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