Florence Township, NJ — Taisha D. Smith-DeJoseph, a volunteer secretary at a New Jersey church, is facing embezzlement charges after she allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars and used the money for her personal expenses – including her wedding.
The 43-year old woman, who was responsible for overseeing finances at her local church, reportedly embezzled $561,777 and used it to pay her car loans, rent, credit card expenses, cable bill, cell phone bills, and to make hundreds of online purchases. She also used some funds to pay for her wedding venue.
The church’s board of trustees alerted the authorities in June 2019 when they suspected theft. An investigation ensued and found that Smith-DeJoseph has been stealing money from the church for five years until March 2019. It was discovered that she made purchases of more than $266,000 through PayPal and more than $22,000 on Amazon.
To cover up her wrongdoings, Smith-DeJoseph apparently fabricated monthly statements and even issued payroll and supply reimbursement checks to herself. She also did not file income tax returns from 2014-2016 and 2018 and filed a fraudulent tax return in 2017.
Even more, Smith-DeJoseph “left the congregation with a negative balance of their accounts approximately 510 times over a seven-year period,” according to the investigation.
“People put their hard-earned money in the church and really expected for it to be taken care of,” the Rev. Fred Jackson told CBS News. “It’s very hurtful for the entire congregation and we’ve been going through it for several months now, and what else can I say? It was devastating.”
Smith-DeJoseph was charged with multiple crimes including theft by deception, computer criminal activity, and failure to pay income tax. She was arrested on Tuesday after a search warrant at her home.