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.
Sara Ann Mock-Butler, the financial director of Pike Peaks Christian Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has agreed to plead guilty to identity theft and pay nearly a quarter of a million dollars in restitution. She will also serve four years unsupervised probation, and 100 hours of community service.
An arrest affidavit for Sara Ann Mock-Butler, the former financial director for Pikes Peak Christian Church, shows that Butler allegedly used almost $350,000 of the church’s money for her own personal benefit, including the purchase of a boat, truck, family vacations, and even lingerie and adult toys.
According to the arrest documents, Butler was employed with the church from 2017 to 2022 as its financial director. In that position, Butler had “sole responsibility for the church’s financial accounts without oversight.”
Beginning in March of 2018, the affidavit states that Butler used increasingly larger sums of the church’s funds every year and deleted evidence of transactions, as well as forged documents to make her purchases appear legitimate.
The first instance of theft occurred on March 7, 2018, in which Butler withdrew $7,000 in cash from the church’s checking account, then an additional $2,700 the following day. Later that month, Capitol One received a payment for $17,700 from Butler, paying off an auto loan. There was never any annotation in the church’s bookkeeping records stating the purpose of the cash withdrawal.
The affidavit shows that shortly after the first instance, Butler then used church funds for purchases from Chipotle and Amazon, and also paid her own personal insurance bill.
Following those purchases – years of snowballing financial crimes using church funds:
Paid her mother’s credit card accounts to the tune of more than $38,000
Abundant personal purchases of groceries, camping supplies, clothing, home improvement, electronics, and even an adult toy and rechargeable batteries
Checks made out to Butler herself, her mother, and her husband
Utility payments and mortgage payments
A Tahoe boat and a down payment on a new 2020 Ford F-350 truck
Vacations to Jellystone Park and Disney World for her family
According to an interview conducted by law enforcement, Butler said most transactions made on behalf of the church required prior authorization by at least two people. The affidavit reveals that Butler would frequently double sign her own name as authorization, submit duplicate purchases, or utilize the authorization stamps of other church leaders without their authorization or knowledge.
Some purchases had no receipts or authorization at all. In one instance, Butler used the authorization stamp of a church employee who was ill to approve her own purchases. That employee later passed away, and the current and former pastors of the church told law enforcement that they believed Butler “took advantage of [the employee’s] signature stamp” during his illness to make her purchases appear legitimate.
Butler utilized multiple methods of accessing the church’s money for her own gain, the affidavit states, including personal checks, cash withdrawals, direct transfers, and credit and debit card purchases. The Colorado Department of Revenue also investigated Butler in connection to these crimes and found her liable for evading $16,723 in taxes.
According to the affidavit, Butler’s crimes were discovered after a new pastor took over duties at the church and requested a financial board to approve expenses, and Butler then resigned in May of 2022. She stayed on to train her replacement for a time, and her replacement and the pastor ultimately discovered the financial discrepancies nearing a $200,000 deficit, which the pastor said led to the church being forced to “make decisions about laying off employees and cutting specific ministries.”
In an interview with law enforcement during the investigation, Butler declined to explain many of the purchases. When questioned about her transfer of nearly $20,000 from the church’s checking account to her own in order to purchase a Tahoe boat, along with a memo attached to the documentation of the purchase stating “buying a boat,” Butler said “I honestly can’t tell you that right now.”
In total, she utilized $341,519.25 of the church’s money for her own use.
The former Financial Director of an El Paso County church took a plea deal on Tuesday after originally facing nearly 900 charges.
According to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, Sara Ann Mock-Butler was suspected of stealing, as she defrauded and forged documents between March 2018 and July 2022 that resulted in a large loss of money from Pikes Peak Christian Church in Security-Widefield.
On Tuesday, Butler took a plea deal and pleaded guilty to one count of identity theft. She agreed to pay restitution of $225,000 after admitting to stealing money by using a credit card from Pikes Peak Christian Chuch. Butler also agreed to 100 hours of community service.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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