The woman who was supposed to watch over the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s money has pleaded guilty embezzling more than $900,000 of it.
On June 29, the archdiocese’s former chief financial officer, Anita Guzzardi, pleaded guilty to theft by deception, unlawful use of a computer and forgery.
“The former CFO for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia admitted to stealing $906,662.93 from the archdiocese, beginning in 2004 [and continuing] until the summer of 2011,” said Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s office.
Guzzardi, 42, of Haddon Heights, N.J., faces 10 and a half to 21 years imprisonment when she is sentenced Aug. 24 in Room 1005 of the Criminal Justice Center.
Guzzardi had worked for the archdiocese since she was about 20 years old and had held several financial positions since her 1989 hiring. She was appointed CFO on July 1, 2011, about two weeks before she was arrested.
The District Attorney’s Office had alerted the archdiocese to “certain accounting irregularities” that had been reported by a credit card company, according to an archdiocesan spokesman, Kenneth Gavin.
Jamerson, in a news release on Monday, said American Express had reported Guzzardi “was using numerous checks drawn from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia general fund to pay on her two personal accounts.”
The DA’s Economic Crime Unit found Guzzardi had used 184 archdiocesan checks to pay her American Express credit card bills and that she also had used 147 archdiocesan checks to pay her Chase credit card.
Further, the DA’s review showed that more than $370,000 of the credit card charges Guzzardi paid off were cash advances or purchases at casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Key West, the Caribbean and Mexico. She also wrote large checks payable to herself, Jamerson stated.
Guzzardi was placed on administrative leave on July 14 and fired a week later after an “internal forensic financial investigation,” Gavin said in a news release.
The embezzlement occurred while Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali were leading the diocese. Charles Chaput was named the city’s ninth archbishop on July 19, 2011, and installed in September.
Most of the money Guzzardi embezzled will be covered by insurance as will part of the costs of the internal investigation, Gavin said. Guzzardi has returned $250,036.59 of the stolen money to the archdiocese.
“Donations to the Heritage of Faith — Vision of Hope capital campaign and the annual Catholic Charities Appeal were not impacted,” Gavin said. “The theft had no effect on the decision to close or regionalize any school, and had no impact on the recent restructuring efforts aimed at cutting the archdiocesan structural deficit.”
How could someone get away with stealing so much money over such a long period of time?
According to Chaput, the archdiocese’s usual outside auditing firm had not found any evidence of Guzzardi’s embezzlement.
“In a work environment based on shared beliefs and service, a dishonest person can do massive damage,” the archbishop said in his weekly column on Feb. 3.
Chaput didn’t name Guzzardi in his column, but referred to her as “a senior member of the archdiocesan staff.” He promised to prevent further embezzlements with rigorous internal controls and tighter budget discipline.EndFragment