Ex-Clerk to Take Plea in NY Archdiocese Theft: Atty

Anita Collins is accused of steadily stealing from the archdiocese's Education Department by writing more than 450 checks to one of her sons

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    A longtime worker for the Archdiocese of New York has been accused of using accounting tricks to steal about $1 million from the church. Pei-Sze Cheng reports. (Published Monday, Jan 30, 2012)

     

    A former clerk charged with embezzling more than $1 million from the Archdiocese of New York plans to plead guilty and agree to more than 4 years behind bars, her lawyer said Thursday.

    Looking frail and drawn, 67-year-old Anita Collins was in court briefly as prosecutors said they were offering her a plea that would carry 4 ½ to 9 years in prison. Collins said nothing, but defense lawyer Howard D. Simmons later said she planned to take the offer.

    It's not yet clear what charge she will admit to in her plea, he said. Collins, who has been held on $750,000 bond since her January arrest, is due back in court Aug. 30.

    Collins — unknowingly hired after a prior theft conviction — is accused of steadily stealing from the archdiocese's Education Department by writing more than 450 checks to one of her sons. The Manhattan district attorney's office says Collins logged the checks as payments for power bills, office supplies and the like, and each check was below a $2,500 threshold that required a supervisor's approval.

    Collins, who made $35,000 to $50,000 a year, spent some of the stolen money on a doll collection, designer clothes, a slew of items from an Irish gift shop and other luxuries, prosecutors said. But Simmons said Collins may also have used some money to help her cancer-stricken daughter.

    Collins was convicted in 1999 of a felony charge of stealing more than $50,000 from a temporary staffing agency where she worked, and in 1986 of a misdemeanor count of stealing from another employer, prosecutors have said.

    In those cases, Collins got probation. She was still on it when she started working at the archdiocese in 2003.

    She was hired shortly before the archdiocese began conducting background checks for all new employees and for existing employees who worked with minors, an archdiocese spokesman said when she was arrested.

    Archdiocese staffers and outside auditors spotted the theft in December and alerted the district attorney's office, the archdiocese said. Collins was fired within 24 hours.

    The money was supposed to be used to run a central office for some of the area's Roman Catholic schools. The archdiocese has said it expected to recover the lost money, partly from insurance.

    Collins isn't able to pay restitution, Simmons said.

    If convicted of the top charge against her, Collins could have faced up to 25 years in prison.

     

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