The former church treasurer gets 10 years probation for stealing $400,000.

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An Ontelaunee Township woman will serve 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to stealing nearly $400,000 from a church where she had served as treasurer.

Melanie Lee Kummerer, 56, pleaded guilty in front of Berks County Judge Patrick T. Barrett on June 7 to one count of theft by unlawful taking and three counts of forgery, according to court documents. All four counts are felonies.

She was sentenced to 10 years probation and is expelled from the church, Calvary Lutheran Church in Laureldale.

Kummerer of the Loose Lane first block was also ordered to pay $379,002 in restitution to the church, $25,000 to UFC Insurance and $11,441 to Brotherhood Mutual. It is unclear how much, if any, of this restitution was paid.

According to investigators from the district attorney’s office, Kummerer forged more than 200 checks totaling $391,444 between 2009 and 2019 while he was Calvary Lutheran’s central treasurer.

According to investigators:

Kummerer was appointed to the position in January 2009, and during her tenure kept the church’s financial records in her home.

In August 2018, the church received a new pastor, Reverend Drew Neidig. During interviews with Neidig, church leaders expressed concerns about church finances.

As a result, in October 2018, the new pastor attended a finance committee meeting and asked Kummerer to provide church leaders with a balance sheet and income statement at all future meetings. At the next two meetings, Kummerer did not provide these documents, giving various excuses for not doing so.

Kummerer resigned as treasurer in February 2019.

In October 2019, church officials provided a full forensic audit of church financial records to county detectives.

Based on the audit and a criminal investigation, it was determined that Kummerer forged more than 200 checks. A warrant for her arrest was issued on March 3, 2020, and she surrendered to the police the following day.

Kummerer was initially charged with 10 felonies and one misdemeanor. As part of the plea deal, many of these charges were dropped.

Church reaction

The Reverend Lauren Wolfe Blatt, acting pastor of Calvary Lutheran, said Monday that the church community was somewhat disappointed with the outcome of Kummerer’s plea deal.

“I think overall our congregation is really grieving,” she said. “They wanted to see a heavier sentence for such a serious crime.”

Blatt said the crime was not just about dollars and cents.

“When you think of it as money, you can minimize it,” she said. “But when you think of it as hard-earned contributions by people to the church, it’s harder to swallow.”

To make matters worse, Blatt said, the stolen money could have helped people in need. And although Kummerer was ordered to repay, it’s unclear whether she will ever be able to repay what she took.

“We are an active and moving congregation,” she says. “We are a congregation that uses the money we have to serve the people of God. We are sad not to see the $400,000 she stole.

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