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Cottleville Church Charity Treaurer Pleads Guilty to Mail Fraud

St. Peters resident Nancy O'Donnell, 53, pled guilty to one felony count of mail fraud after admitting to setting up a fake bank account to use money donated to the charity for herself.

A former treasurer for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cottleville admitted on Wednesday to setting up a false bank account, intended for the charity, for her own personal use.

St. Peters resident Nancy O'Donnell, 53, pled guilty to one felony count of mail fraud before United States District Judge John A. Ross on Wednesday. Mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000.

O'Donnell admitted to creating a second bank account for the society in April 2006. However, the account was created without the knowledge, or permission, of the Society's Board of Directors. O'Donnell gave herself sole access to the account and used her personal address as the business address, ensuring that all statements and communication from the bank went directly to her.

Once the account was open, the court said O’Donnell deposited donation money intended for the Society into both a personal account and the sham account. The court said that O’Donnell then wrote checks on both the phony account and her personal account either to herself or to "cash."

The court also said O’Donnell wrote checks on the Society’s authorized account and deposited those checks into both the sham account and into her personal account, using the funds for personal expenses.        

In an attempt to hide her false account, O'Donnell presented all reports to the Society with only information from the authorized account and no mention of the second, unauthorized sham account.  The court said that she also had all account statements and correspondence for the sham account mailed to her home rather than to the Society.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, prosecutors believe O'Donnell stole more than $200,000. Her lawyers, however said the number was lower.

The Post-Dispatch reports that O'Donnell's lawyer, Jeffrey Demerath, said that O'Donnell was willing to pay the money back, but was waiting until it was decided just how much money was stolen. Judge Ross then said that O'Donnell should pay back what both parties can agree is owed. Demerath agreed and told the judge it would be done soon.

Sentencing has been set for January 24, 2013.

O'Donnell's case was investigated by the Cottleville Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Hal Goldsmith is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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