RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Sheriff's Department is investigating allegations that a Midlands church employee used her position to steal as much as $175,000 from the church over a period of years.
Sources in the church congregation and within the sheriff's department say at least $150,000 and perhaps close to $200,000 was stolen by an employee at Lebanon United Methodist Church on Garners Ferry Road in Eastover.
The sheriff's department says the suspect has been identified and is said to have admitted to the theft. That person's name has not been released.
Sheriff Leon Lott says his agency is obligated to investigate the case, despite a vote by the church's administrative board Monday night to handle the matter privately.
Sources within the congregation say a majority of the board decided to allow the suspect, who has not been publicly identified, to pay back the money with help from family members. The board reportedly set an October 23rd deadline for the repayment.
Lott says the State of South Carolina is a victim along with any congregation member who did not support turning the case over to a bonding company and county authorities.
We have asked for comment from United Methodist Church district leaders.