Official: Employee stole $1.2M from Upper St. Clair church for vacations, Pirates tickets
A church administrator who handled the finances for an Upper St. Clair church siphoned $1.2 million from church accounts over the course of about 17 years for himself and his wife to use, according to a detective with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.
David and Connie Reiter of South Park are accused of spending money stolen from Westminster Presbyterian Church on vacations, restaurants, scrapbooking supplies, Pittsburgh Pirates tickets, medical expenses groceries, bills and more, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.
“This is obviously a large amount of money, but amounts to perhaps 4 or 5 percent of all the funds that passed through the church,” the church said in a statement posted online. “Insurance claims are being pursued, and we anticipate reaching a settlement agreement eventually with the IRS.”
The statement called Reiter a “widely trusted, active member of the church.”
David Reiter, who worked as the church’s administrator since 2001, allegedly hid the thefts through impersonating employees at audit firms and falsifying accounting data, according to the detective. Reiter created a fake employee at an auditing firm that did not do business with the church but who Reiter said was working on the church’s finances.
The phone number for the fake auditor was really for a cellphone that Reiter had purchased with church funds, according to the affidavit. Reiter pretended to be the made-up auditor when the church’s treasurer called the phone.
The church, in its statement, said new procedures and controls were put in place to prevent future thefts and a full audit will be done in the spring.
Reiter admitted to taking the money when he was confronted in November by the church’s head pastor, Jim Gilchrist. He told Gilchrist he needed to resign because of some “bad things” he had done, according to the criminal complaint.
Reiter allegedly transferred money from the church’s accounts — including money for its nursery and early childhood education programs — into his personal account, used a church-issued credit card for non-church-related purchases and had debit cards for himself and his wife from the church’s account. He stole “to make things better at home,” Reiter allegedly told Gilchrist.
Gilchrist told the detective that Reiter expressed remorse and was prepared to accept consequences for his theft. Reiter went to the Upper St. Clair Police Department after talking to Gilchrist to notify officers of the theft.
David and Connie Reiter appeared before District Judge Ronald Arnoni on Tuesday where the judge sent the couple to the Allegheny County Jail. David Reiter’s bail was set at $50,000. His wife’s bail was set at $5,000.
David Reiter, 50, is charged with nine felonies including theft, receiving stolen property and forgery and one misdemeanor. Connie Reiter, 44, is charged with two felony counts of receiving stolen property.
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter .