Former church secretary in Central Texas pleads guilty to embezzling more than $150K from local church
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A former church secretary pleaded guilty Friday to embezzling more than $150,000 from the First Baptist Church of Elm Mott.
Angela Rubio, 52, pleaded guilty to theft of more than $150,000 but less than $300,000 from a nonprofit organization, a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison.
Her plea bargain with state prosecutors calls for a 20-year cap on her potential sentence, but Rubio will be seeking probation when 19th State District Judge Thomas West conducts a sentencing hearing on Aug. 19.
While Rubio pleaded guilty, she told the judge she disputes the amount alleged but agrees that it was more than $150,000.
Rubio, who worked as secretary/treasurer for the church from 2013 until late October 2019, admitted stealing church funds by using the church debit card for personal expenses, according to court records.
An audit of church finances requested by the pastor revealed $173,370 was embezzled from the church, arrest records show. Rubio stole the money over the course of about three years, beginning in 2017, an arrest affidavit alleges.
The pastor requested the financial audit after a check to an air and heating company bounced in November 2019.
The charge is enhanced from a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, to a first-degree, punishable by up to life in prison, because of the church’s nonprofit status.
Prosecutor Susan Shafer said the state made the plea offer with the 20-year cap with the expectation that Rubio could come up with some restitution to repay the church. So far, Shafer said, Rubio has offered no amount of restitution.
Rubio’s attorney, Rod Goble, told the judge Friday that Rubio expects to be able to come up with $20,000 to $30,000 in restitution before the sentencing hearing, adding his client is aware that her sentence likely will be determined by the amount she can repay.
“She understands she has to come up with a significant amount of restitution and that is only one of the factors the judge will consider when he decides the appropriate punishment,” Goble said after the hearing.
Shafer deferred comment after the plea until after the sentencing hearing.
West ordered a background investigation by probation officers in Rubio’s case, which he will review before sentencing.
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