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Church feels 'tremendous impact' after member charged with embezzling $55K

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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

Charleston Police say a former church treasurer broke one of the 10 commandments at Calvary Protestant Episcopal Church over the last year. 51-year-old Stephanie Wright, of Moncks Corner, is facing charges after police say she embezzled $55,000 from church funds.

Wright turned herself in at the Charleston Police Department on Wednesday following a two-month investigation into missing funds at the Calvary Episcopal Church, located at 104 Line Street.

According to an incident report, the church's senior warden discovered that Wright, who served as the church's treasurer, had embezzled approximately $55,000 from the church between Jan. 2012 and Jan. 2013.

"The sums of money that were misappropriated... it's a tremendous impact," said senior warden Joseph Frasier.

Calvary Episcopal normally has 70-75 members at church each Sunday.

Police said documentation provided by the church showed Wright wrote numerous checks, primary to her mother, for fraudulent goods and services.

The warden told officers that in order for a check to be valid, it must be authorized by two individuals with signature authority. The warden said Wright would sometimes request a signature before making the check out to an unauthorized person, but most of the time she would just forge a signature.

Frasier says the incident has taught the church a positive lesson. He says they've always had a policy of checks and balances with the church's funds but it can always be stronger.

The senior warden says the message to other small churches is simple: keep an eye on your employees and double check their work.

Frasier says although the damage has been done and it has hurt his congregation, it has made Calvary stronger.

"This is a new beginning at Calvary," said Frasier. "Let's move forward with love and mercy for those who acted inappropriately and we'll ask for their blessing to heal of their wrong doings."

Wright was charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent. She was granted a $50,000 PR bond during a hearing on Wednesday.

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