Anniston parishioners learned this weekend of the alleged misuse of more than $190,000 by a bookkeeper at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church.
According to a letter dated Friday from Robert Baker, bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham, Sacred Heart Catholic School financial secretary Angie Cheatwood wrote church checks to herself over the course of at least five years, and in some cases forging the pastor’s signature. Cheatwood had previously worked as the parish secretary, according to the letter.
Diocese media relations contact Rev. Doug Vu, contacted by phone Monday, said he is unsure which funds were affected and whether police are or will be involved.
Efforts to reach Cheatwood on Monday were unsuccessful. The bishop’s letter said Cheatwood is believed to be in a rehabilitation center.
Baker’s letter also said Cheatwood admitted to the accusations when confronted. The bishop wrote that Cheatwood’s reported actions came as “a tremendous shock” to all who know her, “especially the entire parish staff.” The statement said most, but not all, of the money is expected to be reimbursed after filing a claim with the diocese’s insurance carrier.
“As directed by our carrier, we are in the process of employing an outside auditing firm to perform a thorough review of all the records going back to the beginning of Mrs. Cheatwood’s employment with Sacred Heart Catholic Church,” Baker said in the letter.
The bishop’s letter said the accusations arose when the diocese financial office began a regular review of the parish and school accounting records several weeks ago in regular routine. He wrote that officials are still looking into the situation.