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Church official charged with embezzling $500,000

A New York man has been charged with embezzling more than $500,000 from a religious nonprofit organization. The 55-year-old Suffolk County resident was employed by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America from 1987 until his resignation in 2017. He now works as a consultant according to his attorney. The charges were announced on Nov. 25 by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

The man faces two counts of wire fraud and could be sentenced to up to 20 years in a federal prison on each count. The man appeared in a district court after being taken into custody by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. He did not enter a plea and was released after posting a $150,000 bond. Prosecutors say that the man ran two separate schemes to embezzle funds from his employer. Court papers filed in Manhattan reveal that prosecutors believe he began embezzling from the organization in 2011.

The first alleged scheme involved using a credit card issued by the church to pay personal expenses. Prosecutors say the man used the card to pay for airline flights for himself and his family, a gym membership, retail purchases and music downloads. The second embezzlement scheme involved unauthorized payments the man allegedly received. Prosecutors believe that the man ordered his subordinates to issue him paychecks for amounts that had not been approved by senior church officials.

When their clients have been charged by federal prosecutors with committing white-collar crimes, experienced criminal defense attorneys may suggest entering into a plea agreement if the evidence against them is strong. This is because the penalties for these offenses can be severe. However, attorneys could recommend arguing the case before a jury if the evidence is less than convincing or their clients maintain that they are innocent.

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