LONDONDERRY - The former director of a parochial nursery school was taken into police custody last week after being charged with stealing over $18,000 from the church coffers.
Lisa Wallace, who resigned from her position at St. Mark the Evangelist Church in 2012 after working there for four years, turned herself in on a Londonderry police warrant Friday.
The arrest wasn't listed in Friday's police log, but police officials said they'd been investigating Wallace closely in recent months after the Diocese of Manchester went over an internal finance audit and discovered the missing funds.
According to police reports, Wallace had free access to the church's bank account during her years of employment, but she allegedly used an ATM card to withdraw cash for personal use rather than for buying crayons and books on several occasions.
Initial police investigations indicated Wallace embezzled around $16,000 from the school over that four-year period, with her personal purchases tracked around the Merrimack Valley region.
Another $2,400 was withdrawn from the account in similar fashion in the days after Wallace's resignation, police said.
Officials at the Londonderry church declined to comment on the matter and referred all inquiries to the diocese office.
Kevin Donovan, communications director for the Diocese of Manchester, said Wallace was employed at the nursery school from September 2008 through June 2012 and had sole control over the school's finances.
"St. Mark Parish and the Diocese of Manchester are cooperating with police in this matter," said Donovan, who declined to comment on specifics of the case due to the ongoing status of criminal investigations against Wallace.
Donovan did stress that the local parish "had already taken the necessary steps to strengthen and enhance the internal financial controls at the nursery school and at the parish."
He asked community members to "pray for all who are involved in this matter."