A Clay County woman went to court Thursday on the charges of theft from Cloverdale Methodist Church.
Michelle Everhart, 36, Poland, was arrested Tuesday evening after an investigation by the Indiana State Police revealed a theft totaling $5,700. Judge Matt Headley presided over her initial hearing Thursday morning. Everhart pleaded not guilty to the D felony charge of theft. Mindy Jackman was appointed as Everhart's public defender, and bond was set at $6,000 cash only.
The money in question was taken from the church's Mission Fund, which goes to help support two missions -- the Putnam County Pregnancy Center and abused women. It also goes to help supply children and infants with food and clothing, as well as persons who are in dire need of financial assistance.
Everhart admitted to taking money from the mission fund, as well as using the church's Visa and Sam's Club/Wal-Mart credit cards.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Everhart stated the thefts began when her husband was out of work in the latter part of 2007 and she did not want the family to be without Christmas presents.
However, during the investigation it was discovered these expenditures were used for the purchase of alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, fuel and tires for her personal car, gourmet coffees, cosmetics, gift cards from Best Buy, clothing, toys, restaurant expenses, telephone, propane and electric bills for her personal residence as well as other unauthorized expenditures.
Everhart told investigators that she would intercept the mail daily and locate the financial statements being sent to the church in order to cover up her theft.
Cloverdale Methodist Church hired Bray & Associates Certified Public Accountants to detail the financial loss they incurred due to Everhart's misuse.
The findings revealed that, despite the fact that Everhart stated the thefts began in December 2007, they appear to have begun on March 22, 2007 -- seven days after Everhart began working at the church.
Also discovered in the audit were 79 independent acts of theft using unauthorized instruments for her financial transactions totaling $5,767.92, according to the affidavit.
This is not the first time Everhart has faced such accusations.
During the investigation by Indiana State Police Sgt. Scott Stockton, he found out Everhart was arrested and convicted of theft from the Boy Scouts of America in Indianapolis when she served as treasurer several years ago.
Everhart's pretrial conference is set for Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. At that time, a trial date will be set pending her plea.
If found guilty, Everhart faces between six months and three years in jail or a maximum $10,000 fine.