The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
Taisha Smith-DeJoseph, treasurer for St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Florence, New Jersey, stands accused of embezzling over $500,000 from the church.
Taisha D. Smith-DeJoseph, 43, was responsible for overseeing the church’s finances and opened electronic bank accounts for St. Paul Baptist Church and used the money for personal expenses, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.
Over the course of five years, ending in March 2019, Smith-DeJoseph allegedly used the stolen money to pay her car loans, rent, credit card expenses, cable bill, cell phone bills, and to make hundreds of online purchases and pay for her wedding venue, a police investigation determined.
The church’s board of trustees suspected a theft around June 2019 and approached authorities with their suspicions, which prompted an investigation, Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, told CNN.
Smith-DeJoseph allegedly made purchases totaling $266,595.65 through PayPal, according to Bewley, and purchases of $22,812.69 on Amazon.
“People put their hard-earned money in the church and really expected for it to be taken care of,” the Rev. Fred Jackson told CNN affiliate KYW. “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 also allegedly issued payroll and supply reimbursement checks to herself from the church’s bank accounts and fabricated monthly statements to hide the church’s true financial state, according to a probable cause statement from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s office.
The woman was charged with multiple crimes including theft by deception, computer criminal activity and failure to pay income tax.
A man who said he is Smith-DeJoseph’s brother told CNN affiliate KYW that he wasn’t aware of the allegations. “I know my sister and she would never do no (expletive) like that,” he said. The man was not named.
The Burlington County Prosecutor’s office said in an attempt to hide the scheme, Smith-DeJoseph didn’t file income tax returns for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. In 2017, she allegedly filed a fraudulent tax return.
I wish people would stop saying that they know so-and-so so well that they KNOW the accused person could never do such a thing. None of us know someone so well that we can speak infallibly about his behavior. I highly doubt that my wife is a serial killer. Can I know for certain that Polly is not a serial killer? 🙂 Of course not. All any of us can do is trust people, and sometimes the people we trust the most do unspeakable things. One need only read the stories in the Black Collar Crime Series to see that supposedly “good” people do awful things.