Pennsylvania State Police say school secretary/bookkeeper admits to $315,545 theft

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A former Catholic school secretary and bookkeeper was arrested on theft charges after auditors accused her of stealing $315,545 in a scheme involving tuition and gift cards.

Pennsylvania State Police said today that Lynn M. Tomlinson, 43, of Valencia, told them she admitted to embezzlement when confronted by officials at Holy Sepulcher Catholic School in May. The thefts were discovered during a routine follow-up in what appeared to be an unpaid tuition bill, church officials said in a statement today.

Ms. Tomlinson told investigators she used the stolen gift cards and cash to pay bills and, later -- when she "got carried away with the spending" -- to buy clothes and jewelry, state police wrote in a criminal complaint.

She was to be arraigned today on three theft charges, as well as charges of access device fraud and tampering with records or ID.

In a letter to parishioners and school parents today, the Rev. John Gizler, pastor of Holy Sepulcher, wrote that "major diversions" of school tuition, receipts and fundraising money were revealed during a financial investigation that began after the business manager found the unpaid tuition bill.

In an interview with state police, Ms. Tomlinson said her duties at the school in Middlesex Township included collecting student tuition checks, assisting the principal and running a fundraising program, in which parents give money to the church in exchange for gift cards, according to the criminal complaint.

She told police she was the only person who handled money and checks for tuition and the fundraising program.

Police said Ms. Tomlinson told them if a parent paid $500 in tuition, for example, she would instead put that money in the fundraising program and take out a matching sum -- and sometimes a lesser amount -- in gift cards.

She told police she took mostly Giant Eagle gift cards, which she would use to purchase a Visa pre-paid credit card in the grocery store. That way, she told police, she could make purchases at any store that would accept Visa.

She told police she also took Lowe's Home Improvement store cards, according to the complaint. Stores give the church gift cards at a discount.

At some point, when parents paid cash for tuition or the fundraising program, she told police she just pocketed the money, according to the complaint. She said the actions occurred on a regular basis until 2011, when she resigned. School officials said they believe the money had been disappearing from late 2006.

Father Gizler asked the parish and school community to pray for Mrs. Tomlinson.

"While we most assuredly extend forgiveness," he wrote, "we all know that justice must be served as well."

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.


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