California Church Accountant Who May Have Stolen $2 Mil Pleads Not Guilty

For the very last time: just because you are a non-profit does not mean you can operate recklessly with minimal internal controls and/or no controls at all.

Case in point, this Fresno church accounting manager who may have stolen $2 million from the church she spent 13 years working for.


51 year-old Sandra Arreola pleaded not guilty last Friday to charges that she borrowed $2.1 million from church tithes and offerings and used the money for properties, bills, vacations and clothing. Pastor Mike Robertson of Visalia First Assembly of God Church says the church noticed about two years ago that something was fishy with Arreola’s accounting. “A few regularities began to surface while testing the payroll system. Additional discrepancies in the handling of contributions came to light as a result of a further internal investigation in conjunction with a forensic audit.”

Of course, had the church been in the practice of doing regular audits in the first place (or at least open to some really reasonable internal control suggestions), it wouldn’t have to call the cops on its trusted employee and send her to jail over $2 million. Robertson says the church’s insurance policy will recover some of that money but that’s not the point. The church has since installed security cameras “to prevent fraud” – not exactly the sort of proactive stance we support around here.

Church member Becky Maze had only nice things to say about our little crook, saying Arreola was “always willing to help” and “a lovely hostess. One of the things she was well-known for was liking to have a tea for the women, and making the little cookies and desserts — the froufrou kind of things.”

Froufrou isn’t cheap, you know. There’s your motive.

Sandy is a fan of “I GAVE IT TO GOD” on Facebook, which makes us wonder if that’s where she’ll tell us the money went when she’s grilled during her trial.

Just goes to show that the religious and God-fearing might be exempt when it comes to taxes but not when it comes to the temptation to take when motive, opportunity and/or rationalization are at work. Hallelujah!

Church accountant accused of embezzling more than $2 million [The Fresno Bee]

For the very last time: just because you are a non-profit does not mean you can operate recklessly with minimal internal controls and/or no controls at all.

Case in point, this Fresno church accounting manager who may have stolen $2 million from the church she spent 13 years working for.


51 year-old Sandra Arreola pleaded not guilty last Friday to charges that she borrowed $2.1 million from church tithes and offerings and used the money for properties, bills, vacations and clothing. Pastor Mike Robertson of Visalia First Assembly of God Church says the church noticed about two years ago that something was fishy with Arreola’s accounting. “A few regularities began to surface while testing the payroll system. Additional discrepancies in the handling of contributions came to light as a result of a further internal investigation in conjunction with a forensic audit.”

Of course, had the church been in the practice of doing regular audits in the first place (or at least open to some really reasonable internal control suggestions), it wouldn’t have to call the cops on its trusted employee and send her to jail over $2 million. Robertson says the church’s insurance policy will recover some of that money but that’s not the point. The church has since installed security cameras “to prevent fraud” – not exactly the sort of proactive stance we support around here.

Church member Becky Maze had only nice things to say about our little crook, saying Arreola was “always willing to help” and “a lovely hostess. One of the things she was well-known for was liking to have a tea for the women, and making the little cookies and desserts — the froufrou kind of things.”

Froufrou isn’t cheap, you know. There’s your motive.

Sandy is a fan of “I GAVE IT TO GOD” on Facebook, which makes us wonder if that’s where she’ll tell us the money went when she’s grilled during her trial.

Just goes to show that the religious and God-fearing might be exempt when it comes to taxes but not when it comes to the temptation to take when motive, opportunity and/or rationalization are at work. Hallelujah!

Church accountant accused of embezzling more than $2 million [The Fresno Bee]

Latest Accounting Jobs--Apply Now:

Have something to add to this story? Give us a shout by email, Twitter, or text/call the tipline at 202-505-8885. As always, all tips are anonymous.

Related articles

Where TF Is the IRS Supposed to Find 87,000 Agents?

While various factions bicker over the Inflation Reduction Act, we have one question: where is the IRS supposed to find 87,000 agents!? In case you haven’t heard or seen your aunt sharing Impact font memes about it, Senate Democrats want to throw some cash at the IRS (among other things not getting into here): The […]

Monday Morning Accounting News Brief: PwC Gets Fined; Big 4: What’s the Scam?; The IRS Straps Up | 8.8.22

Across the pond, PwC has been fined $2.12 million after the firm failed to properly challenge UK telecom group BT once a half-a-billion pound fraud was discovered in BT’s Italian operations: “The sanctions imposed in this case, where certain elements of the adjustments following a fraud were not subject to the required level of professional […]