VERO BEACH — A former parish administrator at Holy Cross Catholic Church was arrested Monday after police accused her of using nearly $550,000 of church donations over several years to pay off her personal lines of credit, according to records obtained Tuesday.
Deborah Lynn True, 69, who has a listed address in Frederick, Colorado, was arrested on a charge of organized fraud over $50,000 after a Vero Beach police investigation that began in December 2021. The church is at 500 Iris Lane on Orchid Island..
The chief financial officer of the Diocese of Palm Beach told investigators True and the Rev. Richard Murphy were suspected “of embezzling over $1 million in funds,” court records show.
Murphy was pastor until he died in March 2020. True, who was released from the Indian River County Jail on $25,000 bond, announced her retirement in July 2020.
Bank account hidden from Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach
An additional church bank account was discovered after a new pastor and bookkeeper were hired, records show.
According to police, in 2012 True and Murphy opened a bank account hidden from the Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach, and that nearly $1.5 million of parishioners’ donations were fraudulently deposited into the account since 2015.
Nearly $550,000 was used to pay True’s personal lines of credit, and about $147,000 was deposited into True’s personal checking accounts, records show.
Police on Sept. 2 spoke with True via phone, and she told investigators she transferred to the church in 1997 with Murphy. They had worked at a Catholic church in Stuart from the mid 1980s until 1997.
She eventually told investigators she used funds to pay off her personal debt, saying Murphy gave her permission.
Told she knew the account was funded by parishoners’ donations, True said “she never gave it a thought,” records state.
Police reported Murphy also appeared to benefit from the money, but because of his death a criminal investigation wasn’t conducted to identify an amount.
An attorney wasn’t listed for True, listed as retired, in Indian River County Clerk and Comptroller records.
Will Greenlee is a breaking news reporter for TCPalm. Follow Will on Twitter @OffTheBeatTweet or reach him by phone at 772-267-7926. E-mail him at email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Former Holy Cross Catholic Church official jailed in fraud case