The Charlotte Observer
An insurance payout designated to the reconstruction of a Tennessee Baptist Church ravaged in a fire ended up in the bank accounts of a peculiar duo: a mom and her son, according to state officials.
Peakland Baptist Church secretary Carolyn Mullins and treasurer Larry Mullins stole a total of $83,710.82 dating back to 2018, according to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office. The duo is accused of writing out personal checks to themselves, along with buying various items at Walmart, including gift cards, cigarettes, clothing, a ring, and cash back.
“These checks were not for church purposes,” a press release from officials says, “and the church was not aware that they were spending church funds for their personal benefit.”
The four-member congregation received three separate insurance checks totaling $189,000 in 2019, all handled by the Mullins. Around $118,000 was allocated to rebuild the church’s sanctuary after a fire ravaged it earlier that year.
By mid-2019, only $95,000 was paid to the contractor, officials say, and work stopped altogether due to insufficient funds.
The Mullins hired another person to install the heating and air conditioning units along with duct work after construction halted. The expenses came out to $12,224.36.
Come December, officials say the church account balance was $25.77 and by February of 2020 the account stood at 77 cents.
The account was closed soon after.
The family duo transferred a little over $12,000 back to the church, but a balance greater than $70,000 still remains, according to Tennessee officials. The mother and son were each charged on one count of theft over$60,000 and were indicted in July 2021, according to an investigation requested by the District Attorney General of the 9th Judicial District.
To this day, the interior of the building has still not been completely remodeled, officials say. Congregants still gather in the fellowship hall while the church continues to pay utilities and other operational expenses.
“It’s a best practice for churches to have someone other than treasurer reconcile the monthly bank statements and review financial activity,” said Comptroller Jason Mumpower. “Separating financial responsibilities reduces the risk of errors or fraudulent activity.”