Letter: Church member took $360,000 in 'diabolically based' scheme

A Knoxville church is decrying the alleged theft of $360,000 by a former church treasurer "blinded by the temptations of the devil."

In a letter obtained by 10News, Father Anthony Stratis of Saint George Greek Orthodox Church names the man and states that he has admitted using the money for his own personal use.

"The very idea of a fellow hard-working member of St. George involved in such a diabolically-based scheme brings each of us serious heartache, amidst other emotions," Stratis' Feb. 26 letter states.

10News is not naming the church member because he has not been charged.

Numerous members declined to comment Thursday when contacted by 10News.

According to the letter, the former treasurer took church funds over a four-year period. He now has pledged to repay the money, according to Stratis' letter.

As a result of the thefts, the church's accounts - including those for Greek Fest, a popular annual event in the Knoxville area, the general fund and the memorial fund - amount to less than $2,000, according to the priest.

A special general assembly of the church is authorizing securing a $150,000 loan that will cover in part basic needs, such as paying the church KUB bill.

After members began noticing money irregularities, "rationalizations were given," Stratis wrote. Trusting church members decided there was no reason for a more rigorous inquiry.

Then, ultimately, Stratis wrote, "...too many alarms indicated unquestionably that a breach had occurred."

An internal investigation and inquiry by the Parish Council was conducted. After the review, with guidance from the Metropolis of Atlanta, the alleged theft began to come to light, according to the letter.

"An external audit will be done to determine, among other findings, the actual amount that was siphoned over the course of his .... years a Treasurer," the letter states.

There's no sign anyone else was involved, according to the priest.

Stratis concluded: "It is certainly difficult to ask a community of hard-working, dedicated, and faithful members to turn around and start all over again because of the actions of one individual. However, we should remind ourselves that the need is here; it is time to address that need. We should also remember that each one of us thirsts for God's great mercy, therefore we must be merciful ourselves."

Knoxville Police Department spokesman Darrell DeBusk said because the church hasn't pressed charges, KPD is not involved in an investigation. However, federal authorities could choose to pursue a case if stolen money was used for personal purposes and not declared at tax time, he said.


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