Northeast Times

Former church CFO admits embezzlement

Start­Frag­ment

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

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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