A former Minneapolis bookkeeper was accused Friday of embezzling more than $235,000 from the Lutheran church over seven years.
Since 1996, Raenay Hendrickson, 50, of Brooklyn Park had been the bookkeeper for the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, overseeing all its finances until she was dismissed last July. In a 2012 audit, according to the charges, the synod discovered the alleged embezzlement, reporting to police in March that she had written many unauthorized checks to herself, her creditors and others, falsifying records to hide the payments.
Hendrickson confessed when police met with her last month, admitting that she started falsifying records in 2005 and that she knew it was wrong, the Hennepin County criminal complaint said. Church records show she wrote $235,102 worth of unauthorized checks to herself from the church accounts from 2005 to 2012, spending $44,681 between May 2010 and July 2012, when she was dismissed. She's charged with seven counts of theft by swindle, which are felony charges.
In a letter to the congregations, Bishop Ann Svennungsen said in February that leaders have added extra financial oversight as a result of the case. "We can assure congregants," a statement from the synod reads, "that the diligent and improved financial oversight process, which detected the misappropriation of funds, is firmly in place, ensuring responsible stewardship of gifts to the church."