CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — A former church employee is accused of stealing more than $600,000 from a Tennessee First Presbyterian Church between 2007 and July of this year, according to a lawsuit recently filed in Montgomery County Chancery Court.
Former bookkeeper Connie Parker had access to a church credit card and used it for personal items ranging from vacations and furniture to massages and spa treatments, according to First Presbyterian's lawyer, Larry Watson, in court Friday.
After a short hearing, Judge Bill Goodman III issued an injunction Friday restraining Parker from selling or disposing of any property or assets other than what is needed to live on a day-to-day basis as the church goes about trying to recoup as much money as possible.
"It's so staggering of an amount," Watson said. "I hope this woman is mega-wealthy."
Parker was hospitalized at a Nashville hospital Friday and did not attend the hearing, but lawyer Blaine Dixon was hired by her family and told Goodman that Parker is very sick.
According to the civil lawsuit, filed Aug. 24, Parker was the church's bookkeeper and had limited authorized use of the credit card but used it to pay personal bills for herself and others.
Watson, who is also a member of the church, told Goodman that Parker got sick and bills began to pile up at the church until someone opened them and found an unauthorized $4,500 charge on a church credit card. Parker later paid that money back.
But as the church began to look through previous transactions, it was discovered that more than $400,000 had been put on church cards and Watson called the Clarksville Police Department.
An Aug. 8 police report states Parker is accused using church money on vacations, car repairs and jewelry for herself between June 6, 2012, and Aug. 5 of this year.
Since then, even more purchases have been found going back nine years, according to the church's lawsuit.
According to the CPD police report, Parker is accused of moving funds from different church accounts in the general fund account to pay off the credit card bill every month.
The lawsuit said that during the same time period, Parker gave herself extra wages of more than $55,000 and $5,000 in unauthorized insurance payments.
The church is seeking to recover "in excess of $600,000 for credit card expenses and an amount in excess of $55,000 and $5,000 respectively for the over payment of salary or wage and unauthorized benefits," in addition to other costs associated with a financial investigation and court costs.
The lawsuit asks for actual and compensatory damages of $720,000 and any other damages the plaintiff may be entitled to.
The police report states Parker was fired the first week of August.
There is no record of the woman being criminally charged, as of Friday.
Clarksville Police Department spokesman Steve Warren said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is also investigating the case.
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