Woman formally charged over theft from church
URBANA — An Allerton woman accused of stealing thousands of dollars from a campus church is due back in court April 8.
Michelle Ingram, 41, was arraigned Wednesday in Champaign County Circuit Court for felony theft alleging that she stole between $500 and $10,000 from the Wesley United Methodist Church, 1203 W. Green St., U, between May 2008 and June 2012.
Urbana police Lt. Bryant Seraphin said Ingram was hired at Wesley as the business administrator in June 2008.
After the church rearranged employees and divided up job responsibilities among part-time employees, a new bookkeeper discovered discrepancies in June 2012. Church officials called in a professional accountant and spent several months reviewing accounts before contacting Urbana police in February 2013, Seraphin said.
Seraphin said detectives then spent months investigating before sending the case to the state's attorney's office for the first time in May and then again in July after further investigation.
Last month, the state's attorney filed two counts of felony theft, a Class 3 felony carrying penalties ranging from probation to two to five years in prison upon conviction. Ingram was sent a summons to be in court Wednesday.
Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler said it's difficult to know exactly how much the church might be out because of Ingram, but said it's fair to say the amount is in the thousands.
"What I believe I can prove is it looks like there's about $10,000 in reimbursements and benefits that she shouldn't have been tacking on to her paycheck (that she did)," he said.
The prosecutor said there were also unauthorized purchases made with a church credit card. However, Ziegler could not quantify how many of those may have been attributable to Ingram alone because others had access to the card.
Seraphin said the questionable transactions with the church credit and debit cards were made at numerous local businesses including Hickory River, Walmart, Prairie Gardens, and Farm and Fleet.
Judge John Kennedy allowed Ingram to remain free on her own recognizance until her next court date.
Ingram is represented by Urbana attorney Baku Patel.