DEL CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – A costly sin was committed by a former Del City Catholic church payroll administrator, who pleaded guilty to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars of the church’s money while working there.
“It’s obviously disheartening to hear something happening like that from a church,” said Avery Holt, the Interim Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. “When that trust is broken, it’s saddening to hear.”
Court records filed in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma show Darla Bralley started her role at the St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in 2012.
“In her role as the payroll administrator, Bralley had signature authority over St. Paul’s operating account, and she had authority to issue checks for authorized expenses on behalf of St. Paul. Bralley also had authority to conduct online banking transactions for authorized St. Paul expenses,” said a news release issued from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to court records, Bralley started stealing money from the church in 2014 and continued through January 2020.
In those six years, the documents say she admitted to writing herself “198 unauthorized checks drawn on St. Paul’s BancFirst checking account to pay for various personal items and services, including personal credit card payments, utilities, and living expenses.”
The court filings add Bralley “routinely accessed” the checking account online and made “several unauthorized transfers” to pay her personal expenses.
“When they found out that this was happening. They contacted the authorities, law enforcement, and once they got involved, they had an investigation,” said Holt. “We kind of went from there as they uncovered what was really going on.”
In total, Bralley defrauded the church out of approximately $451,117.54 and “did not repay St. Paul for the unauthorized purchases and transfers,” according to court documents.
“How that kind of gets resolved and how that gets handled, I’ll have to do some more digging for you there,” said Holt when asked if or how the church would get the money back.
The court documents further add that in 2019 Bralley lied about her 2018 tax return. The news release from the U.S. attorney’s office said she left out “substantial income … related to the money she embezzled from St. Paul.”
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, when sentenced, Bralley will face up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud charge and up to 3 years in prison for the tax charge.
“Here as Catholics, and it’s our duty, our responsibility to pray for everyone, no matter what they’ve done,” said Holt. “We’re glad that this is taking the direction that it has and we’re going to continue to pray for her and, you know, her family as they go through this.”
KFOR talked to Bralley’s attorney on the phone Monday afternoon. He said they don’t have a comment right now.