The former treasurer of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's New England Synod has been accused of embezzling $800,000 from the synod's endowment and restricted-fund accounts.
George A. Patrick, 55, was arrested at his Cheshire, Connecticut, home September 19. He has been charged with felony counts of larceny and money laundering. Auditors discovered funds missing in an investigation started about the time Patrick resigned last December. He had been regional treasurer for the 77,000-member body for 12 years.
Patrick is accused of diverting church money to pay for resort vacations, vacation homes in Cape Cod and Vermont, and tuition for his sons at Yale University and Boston College.
Connecticut chief prosecutor John M. Bailey says Patrick did not file a state income-tax return in the past five years, despite spending $900,000.
Bishop Robert L. Isaksen, head of the synod, says the arrest confirmed his worst fears. "There is a great sense of loss and betrayal. We must now work to rebuild."
Isaksen says the synod has revamped internal controls on its finances. "We have moved from an old system where a trusted few were invested with virtually complete control to a new system where more people are held accountable for specific tasks."
The charges bear a remarkable similarity to an embezzlement case in the Episcopal church. Ellen Cooke, former national treasurer, was convicted for embezzling $1.5 million and is serving a five-year prison term.1