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Woman accused of taking $200,000 from church

MUNCIE, Ind. – A central Indiana woman faces federal charges alleging that she embezzled nearly $200,000 from a church while working as its accountant and used the money for vacations, clothing and other personal indulgences.

Angela Renee Linder, 42, is charged with wire fraud, a federal offense that carries a maximum 20-year prison term and $250,000 fine. She was scheduled to appear Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis for an initial hearing.

The Star Press reports (http://tspne.ws/XhKMTN) that Linder worked as an accounting administrator for Union Chapel United Methodist Church from 2001 to 2010. Her duties included handling the Muncie church’s payroll and its credit card accounts.

Federal prosecutors said that Linder used her access to the church’s finances to bilk it out of nearly $200,000 and used the money for vacations to Chicago and Gatlinburg, Tenn., to buy clothing, pay for meals and finance home improvements.

Court records indicate Linder and her attorney, Mark McKinney, have negotiated a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

U.S Attorney Joe Hogsett says Linder will plead guilty at a May 23 hearing.

In her proposed plea agreement, Linder is said to have “demonstrated a recognition and affirmative acceptance of personal responsibility for her criminal conduct,” according to court documents. The paperwork is signed by Linder, McKinney and U.S. Attorney Gayle L. Helart.

She allegedly used the church’s credit cards and wrote fraudulent checks drawn on church accounts to pay for numerous personal expenses.

Linder also is accused of stealing about $2,500 from the church to set up a fund “purportedly for the purpose of assisting children whose families were victims of fire-related disasters.”

Gregg Parris, senior pastor at Union Chapel, released a statement Tuesday saying his congregation will weather the financial scandal but that the Linder case made them feel violated.

“We were very disappointed to learn our former accountant was misappropriating church funds for personal use,” Parris said. “Needless to say, when trust is violated, it does harm to everyone involved, especially in a setting where trust is so highly regarded.”

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