Gobin files suit against Fenwick

Thursday, December 3, 2009

GREENCASTLE -- Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church has filed a civil suit against Melynda J. "Mindy" Fenwick, the former secretary who is currently serving a prison sentence for stealing more than $300,000 from the church.

Fenwick, 37, was convicted of six counts of Class C felony forgery and six counts of Class D felony theft. On Nov. 23, Putnam County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Headley sentenced Fenwick to 10 years in prison, to be followed by five years on probation.

No court dates have been set in the civil suit. Along with Fenwick, several members of her family -- including her husband and children -- are named as respondents.

Also named as respondents in the suit are First National Bank of Greencastle and Old National Bank.

"We're basically trying to do our responsibility as good stewards to recover as much of the stolen funds as possible through whatever means possible," said Gobin spokesperson Jeff Hansen.

Hansen wanted to clarify a point -- that the church is not suing or going after the assets of Fenwick's family unless it can be proved that those assets rightfully belong to Gobin.

"By naming several members of her family, that allows us to look and see if she deposited money in another account under someone else's name," Hansen said. "We're not trying to recover money from her children that is theirs. If it's determined that she didn't deposit any money in their names, they'll probably be dropped from the suit.

"We know people are thinking, 'Why are they suing these kids?'" Hansen continued. "We don't want the kids' money; we just want back what's rightfully ours. If it's not there, we're out of luck. But I don't know how anyone could object to us taking what was ours in the first place."

Hansen said the banks were named because "We feel like they have some liability in not being more careful about what was going on."

Hansen said one of the methods Fenwick used to steal Gobin's money was to transfer it from one of Gobin's money market accounts into her personal checking account. Hansen said the bank allowed Fenwick to make transfers that she was not authorized to make.

"Of course, they disagree, but we think we have an argument," Hansen said.

Tom Washburn, attorney for Old National, said he would not comment on pending litigation.

"I do want it said that Old National did not do anything wrong," he said.

Fenwick was employed by Gobin as administrative financial secretary from late 2004 to August 2009. She admitted she had, from Jan. 1, 2005 to Aug. 11, 2009, made out checks to herself and then signed the name of Mildred See, who had the authority to sign the checks. Furthermore, she admitted she had committed theft from the church, by taking the money, over the same period of time.

Fenwick also said she had stolen more than $100,000 from the church over the period, constituting the one Class C felony theft charge.

The final charge springs from the more than $10,000 in unauthorized purchases Fenwick made on the church's Wal-Mart credit card.

In court, Fenwick admitted to doctoring the church's financial statements to cover up the thefts.

Fenwick was arrested Aug. 11 after discrepancies surfaced during an audit of the books at Gobin.

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  • I'm shocked to see the banks listed in the suit. Why not add Wal-Mart, Kroger, TSC, all gas stations in Greencastle, fast food places and all other merchants who may have recieved any money that Mindy had spent, to the lawsuit?

    After this, are the banks going to have to ask for proof of earnings to cash a payroll check? Are tellers going to be liable if they have been conned?

    Why not sue Mindy's immediate supervisor for not double checking her actions? Better yet, why not sue Satan himself for tempting Mindy with access to all those funds? Maybe Gobin was too hasty in filing this suit, there are plenty of people and businesses to hold accountable for the actions of one.

    -- Posted by Xgamer on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 6:35 AM
  • And people don't thin some I repeat SOME churches all about the money. instead of praying for them they are sueing them. Welcome to the new age.

    We feel like they have some liability in not being more careful about what was going on. Hansen , LOOK with in the Church and you will find liability! I know lets fault the members of the church too. if they didn't pay their tyes she wouldn't stole the money. Money, Money ,Money. instead of trying to get into the wallet , lets start getting the Bible.

    -- Posted by Sand mann on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 7:17 AM
  • The bible directs us to pray concerning our needs and to have faith that God will provide. No place in the bible are we instructed to sue those who wrong us. In fact our instructions are to forgive those who transgres agains't us. To sue is a lack of prayer, faith and forgiveness. Mindy is guilty but so is the church, they should have had better safeguards in place.

    -- Posted by Trying hard on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 8:04 AM
  • Wow! The banks are being sued for not following policy and and allowing transactions that she was not authorized to make. While listing all the family members is a difficult experience there could possibly be hidden money in other accounts and that must be checked. I am sure the Members and leadership of the church made their decisions prayerfully. You also tread a slippery slope when you blame the victim of the crime. Jesus said give to the Lord what is the Lords. Give to Ceasar what is Ceasars. Thus separating church and state and therefore separating Religion and Governmental action. Certainly pray for the defendant and her family but pray for the Church as well.

    -- Posted by hardtobelieve on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 8:26 AM
  • Xgamer,

    If you knew anything about banking you would know that they are responsible. You CAN NOT transfer money from a business accout into a personal account period!!! If you do a transfer it has to go into another business account. So if she went into the bank and said I want to transfer money from this account to this account then yes the bank is liable (if for no other reason than she was not a signer on the account)

    And to everyone else....This is the church's money that was taken from them...if you had money stolen from you, would you not try and take it back. I think that you would. It is rightfully their money...She bought lawn mowers, game consoles, horses and who knows what else...why can't that stuff be sold and the money go back to the church? It doesn't mean that the church can't or won't forgive her for what she did, but it is their money that people donated in good faith to help repair an organ.

    As far as them having better steps in place...She forged bank statements...usually when you do an audit you go by bank statements and match it up with your records..if that was the case then of course the bank statements would have matched up with the records..

    Oh and for the record I am not a member of Gobin, just a concerned person trying to make people understand how banks and audits work!

    -- Posted by girlmd on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 8:46 AM
  • The South Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church requires its churches to have the financial records audited and submit the completed audit to the conference on an annual basis.

    Having served on a UMC finance committee for several years, I simply can't understand how this theft went on for this length of time. How can the CPA/member/treasurer explain that to conference, the finance committee and/or the congregation? How can $60,000 that is donated and specified for a particular item just disappear and nobody realize it? I know several years ago, Gobin would have 3 or 4 people come in on Monday morning to count the collection from the day before. Somebody somewhere should have been alert enough to realize there was more money coming in than what was being spent for the church, whether the bank statements were altered or not!! Yes, Fenwick did wrong and needs to be punished, but if I was a member of the Gobin congregation, I'd sure DEMAND lots of answers from those that serve on the finance committee, as well as the CPA/treasurer/member. I don't even attend Gobin but I question it!

    -- Posted by howsthishappen on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 8:48 AM
  • She was altering the bank statements to look like the money was there. The money was going to be used for organ repair...until they received all of the money they were not going to repair the organ. So why would it be noticed...the money was sitting in an account for organ use...if they weren't paying bills with this money than it is easy enough to believe that they saw the bank statements with the same amount that had been coming in...so I do believe that the auditors were doing their job. She kept the bank statements with all of the withdraws she made and forged new ones to give to the church that probably just showed the deposits..in that case the auditors would have gone by the bank statements (like they are suppose to).

    -- Posted by girlmd on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 8:58 AM
  • I am sorry people but the church is right on the money here. Unless you have been in this situation you cannot understand the aftermath of what happens to a non-profit/business when they are financially devastated like this. This could not have been an easy decision for this church, and in their defense, we do have laws that every citizen is entitled to exercise. Even a church. Forgiveness, when it comes, will be at the fruition of this process.

    -- Posted by Hairy Tiger on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 9:08 AM
  • thank you hairy eagle...for being the voice of reason!

    -- Posted by girlmd on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 9:11 AM
  • The banks certainly are liable. Forging signatures? Come on now. You all know that they have our signatures on file when we open an account. Just check it periodically. Transferring from business to personal? Seriously, they let her do that? ANY bank teller should have been trained enough to know THAT can't be done....unless she owned the business! I hope the bank doesn't allow someone to come and take MY money out! I feel sorry for the family but it wasn't theirs to spend. YES, Gobin should have had a better system in place and I assume they are changing things already.

    -- Posted by bannerstuff on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 9:14 AM
  • girlmd is right on! God forgives us when we sin and are contrite and ask for it. Forgiveness does come, but the consequences of our sin still come, also. Five years does seem like a long time to hide things if audits were held yearly. The article did not say whether the treasurer was bonded or not. And, as far as the banks are concerned, they surely had a signature card with Mildred See's signature on it. If these forgeries were never checked, the banks certainly ARE at fault. It will be interesting to see how this all comes out.

    -- Posted by not gullible on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 10:52 AM
  • Gobin is doing the right thing by attempting to get back SOME of what was stolen from them. period.

    -- Posted by just a local on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 10:53 AM
  • Gobin is right!! I am not a member but as a member of another church I would be furious to find out someone stole money from the church. Only a person with NO Conscience would steel from a church of all places. My family has dealt with medical crisis and unexpected bills but I never stole from anyone to pay those bills. She was absolutely wrong and the church deserves to get what they can back. I am sure her husband and kids didn't have a problem spending the money at the time. I can only hope she is suffering as much as the church and its members are! God Bless.

    -- Posted by FEDUP! on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 11:59 AM
  • Girlmd's comments seem to be on the defensive. I'm not standing up for a Bank by any means. These banks have been conned by Mindy as well to pull something off like this. The 2 banks mentioned did not hire Mindy to work for them, and now they are a victim too?

    Hardtobelive, I have no fear of slippery slopes. I'm not blaming anything on a victim of a crime. I simply stated that I am shocked. I never claimed to have complete knowledge of banking. I disagree with sueing the banks in this case, it's my opinion.

    I can understand how the family is in the suit- they more than likely benefitted from extra income and still may have items purchased with the stolen funds. Too bad for them, blame Mindy.

    If you work for Gobin, or related to anyone who does, you must feel humiliated. This is probably NOT a venue that will make you feel better.

    -- Posted by Xgamer on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 12:33 PM
  • last time I was on here there were 4 comments now this one makes 3.Wo ! how did that happen?

    -- Posted by Sand mann on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 1:21 PM
  • It's time to take responsibility for actions not to Hide behind the Church. She did wrong , getting punished, And the church is taking No blame . Come On! do we not balance our check books making sure we are right. so should they .. is was organ repair money.

    the church said $300,000 she said $100,000. someone is not telling the whole truth. If this went on for years I don't think the church or Fenwick Knows. Throw out a figure.

    To me this article blackens the eye of the church. it should be a learning exercise.

    money is the root of evil, the church and members have been fine without it for years ,oh now it's an issue.

    FEDUP, a Thief is a thief from a person or a company.

    for the ones whom say "But It's a church open the Bible and read what a church is. end of story.

    -- Posted by Sand mann on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 1:45 PM
  • xgamer,

    I'm not on the defensive I just want people to understand how banks and audits work! I am no longer in banking but I was in banking for 7 years, they have protocol that should have been put into place and followed. As far as the audits..I have worked with federal audits (through banking) and I was also a treasurer for a church so I know how these things work. She falsified bank statements and took the money PERIOD!

    The church has every right to try and recoup that money, it was their money.

    -- Posted by girlmd on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 1:50 PM
  • Sand Mann,

    You balance your checkbook by your bank statements...she was falsifying the bank statements. According to everything that has been written, she kept the original bank statements and used a template to make up the ones that the church and auditing committee actually saw. So yes it could have gone on for years. Also from what has been said the organ was going to be restored once the church received all of the funds, so therefore the money wouldn't have been coming out of that account until it was time to restore the organ.

    So as i see it the money was sitting in the account, collecting interest until time to use it. giving her the perfect opportunity.

    -- Posted by girlmd on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 1:54 PM
  • grlmd, your comments solidify mine. The bank was conned by this woman. The church turned their backs on the organ repair money, trusting it would stay there. Yes, they do have a right to recoup their money, and should go after every asset Mindy had accumulated. I don't believe the banks were purposely involved in these thefts and should not be responsible. With two banks involved, the protocol was cleverly compromised, obviously.

    These two banks are at a loss as well, $300,000 was in accounts, and now it is not. Why can't the banks sue the church for hiring an embezzler? The banks would have made money with that much working for them, so I guess they are victims as well.

    -- Posted by Xgamer on Thu, Dec 3, 2009, at 6:28 PM
  • Xgamer,

    The church didn't turn their backs on the money..when a church or not for profit is raising funds for a specific item/purpose a seperate account is usually always opened (to keep those funds seperate from the general fund). Until those funds need to be used, they usually sit in a money market account or cd to accrue interest. That's how it works. For you to say that they turned their backs on their money is absurd.

    Just because two seperate banks were involved does not mean that protocol wasn't followed. Trust me the two banks involved are not perfect. As far as them being purposely involved...I don't believe that they were either. Usually if a business account has numerous transactions being made (checks written to a single person) their operations department gets suspicious and checks the signatures and questions it. Especially on a not for profit like a church.

    -- Posted by girlmd on Fri, Dec 4, 2009, at 8:44 AM
  • I am glad that the church is doing this, and it is not a sign that they are not in the process of forgiveness. Even as the Lord forgives us, we still can face consequences for our sins on this earth in our lifetime, and the Bible never condoned theft.

    -- Posted by Sputty on Fri, Dec 4, 2009, at 9:29 AM
  • I know No one wants to blame a church. Come on there is only 1 person whom has to account for the church's money. I think Not.

    the blame is the church personel who over sees fenwick and her.

    maybe the church can sue the shirt off the childrens back. I wouldn't put it past them.

    Sometime you take your losses and move on.

    what the public thinks of you means alot in any business or organization.

    /////forgive and change policy so it won't happen again.

    -- Posted by Sand mann on Fri, Dec 4, 2009, at 9:46 AM
  • I would think that the church treasurer would be bonded, and if so, shouldn't the church be able to recoup some of the loss through that? Falsified bank statements or not, if monthly income/expense reports are reviewed by finance committee members, they have numbers in front of them and should be able to see that something's not right!! If not, they need to find someone else to serve on the committee. I would think the CPA/treasurer should have had more to go on than bank statements -- falsified or original. Hopefully this experience will be a wake-up call to be more alert as to what's going on!

    -- Posted by howsthishappen on Fri, Dec 4, 2009, at 9:50 AM
  • Sounds to me like there wasn't any checks and balances at the church, and that they are trying to relieve themselves of any obligation that this was also their fault. The banks are responsible for auditing your accounts. Come on here you have to accept some responsibility yourself. It's terrible what happened but sometimes the finger points back to the one that thinks they have the grievance.

    -- Posted by concern on Fri, Dec 4, 2009, at 10:27 AM
  • She was not the church treasurer, therefore it doesn't matter if the treasurer was bonded or not. As far as the monthly income/expense reports...When you balance your checkbook you go off of bank statements...usually when a church reconciles their monthly budget they use the bank statements to do so along with what is in their personal registers (whether they use QuickBooks, Quicken, etc). So she could have made it impossible to know that money was being taken. From what we've been told (in the Banner Graphic), she was the one who opened the mail, therefore she would see the bank statements, keep those and falsify the ones going to the treasurer. Remember the only way she was caught was because she became careless and left one of the original bank statements out where it was found.

    As far as having the numbers in front of them...I'm sure that the treasurer and committees did, but again they had their numbers and the banks numbers (that she made match up with their numbers).

    Again the church has every right to recoup their money...it doesn't mean that they have or have not forgiven or will forgive her. It means that they are trying to do right by the generous people who gave that money in good faith.

    -- Posted by girlmd on Fri, Dec 4, 2009, at 12:08 PM
  • The bank that let her have this money knew she wasn't to be trusted as she had worked for them and took money there, she was let go but charges were not filed against her. Which if charges had been filed she would never have been hired at Gobin as they would have known she couldn't be trusted. So when she came to cash large checks that were forged at this bank do you think they should not have questioned it??? She stole from Gobin to pay back another employer that she stole $10,000 from and again charges weren't filed so it wasn't made known of her record of stealing. She has also taken other funds from other organizations that she volunteered in, would you want Mindy as a leader of your children such as youth leader in a church or girl scout leader??

    -- Posted by 19pioneer37 on Fri, Dec 4, 2009, at 10:54 PM
  • Wow - what a difference the comments make when instead of being about Mindy - it's about Gobin wanting to get their money back.

    No one is MAKING Mindy pay it back!! She has NO Restitution... So, how else will they get it back?


    -- Posted by luv2bmom2001 on Sat, Dec 5, 2009, at 4:56 PM
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