The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Church Bookkeeper Embezzled $50k because Voices Told Him to

On Friday, a former church bookkeeper was sentenced to three years in prison for stealing $50,000 from the church where he worked, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Robert C. Drefs claimed that he embezzled the money from Messiah Lutheran Church in Elmhurst because he heard voices that ordered him to do so. He pleaded guilty to theft charges in March.

Although Drefs claimed he was only following otherworldly orders, prosecutors noted that the man was lucid enough to cover up his tracks. “Despite hearing the voices, the defendant’s actions were purposeful, they were planned,” DuPage County Judge Kathryn Creswell said.

According to prosecutors, Drefs wrote out church checks to a checking account for a business that had once employed Drefs but had since gone out of business. Drefs reportedly still had access to the company’s bank account.

Drefs allegedly has a history of stealing from employers. At the trial, a representative from a boating safety organization testified that Drefs had embezzled over $15,000 from the organization while working as the group’s treasurer.

In general, embezzlement is committed by an employee, fiduciary, or agent. It’s defined as the theft of either money or property by someone who has been entrusted with those assets. Under Illinois’ criminal code, theft of property exceeding $10,000 but not exceeding $100,000 is a Class 2 felony.

Robert C. Drefs’ elderly father reimbursed both the boating safety organization and Messiah Lutheran Church for the money Drefs’ allegedly embezzled. Drefs has begun to attend counseling sessions and has stated that he believes they will help him escape “the dark room” he had mentally been stuck in for a decade.

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