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Former Church on the Rock employee sentenced for embezzling $450,000

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 3:29 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock woman has been sentenced to five and a half years in federal prison for using Church on the Rock money to pay for personal expenses, including vacations to Disneyland and Las Vegas, in the amount of more than $450,000. She was also sentenced to five years of supervised release and to pay restitution of $450,000.

She faced up to 30 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $1 million, up to five years of supervised release, and possible restitution to victims or the community.

According to court documents, from 2013 to 2018, Lisa Dawn Stabeno worked as Accounts Manager for Lubbock non-denominational Church on the Rock’s “Dream Center,” an outreach program “founded for ministry to underserved individuals in East Lubbock.” The federal court indictment says the bank fraud transactions continued during the entire time she worked for the church.

She has been charged with six counts of bank fraud. Each count is a different instance where Stabeno was accused of using church credit cards for personal expenses, including rent payments, car payments, credit card payments, and vacations to “Disneyland, Legoland, Six Flags over Texas and Las Vegas.”

The document says, “In 2014 Stabeno began using two church Chase Visa credit cards routinely for all manner of personal expenses. For example, she used the credit cards to pay medical and dental expenses; purchase supplies for her bakery; and to pay for countless personal expenditures, including clothing, salon services, and restaurant meals.”

Court documents also accuse Stabeno of using church funds to make payments to individuals, including multiple family members, who “purportedly performed work for her business,” to supplement her business income. Court documents reveal, “Stabeno made 128 unauthorized online transfers of money totaling $332,085.02 from Church Prosperity Bank accounts to make payments on the personal credit card balances.”

Documents state Stabeno was entrusted by the church with access to funds “limited to the performance of church business.”

“Stabeno used her Capital One credit card and the Citibank credit card held under her daughter’s name to pay for personal expenses and purchases, to prop up her business, to give money to her daughters, and to pay the salaries of her bakery employees,” according to court documents.

The indictment says, “Although Stabeno used various means to conceal her fraud, which makes it difficult to prove with complete certainty the amount she embezzled in her scheme to defraud, the provable amount is in excess of $450,000.”

The church terminated her employment when they discovered the fraud in the summer of 2018. The court documents say as a result of the embezzlement, the church experienced difficulty paying expenses and was forced to terminate employees, seek donations from its parishioners and obtain a bank loan.

The federal court documents say “Stabeno admits and agrees that she knowingly executed a scheme and artifice to obtain money under the custody or control of Chase and Prosperity Bank through fraudulent and material pretenses, as alleged in Counts Three and Six of the Indictment. Stabeno further admits and agrees that she committed all the essential elements of the offenses alleged in Counts Three and Six”

Count 3 is an unauthorized payment with the church’s J.P Morgan Chase credit card to Stanley AFE LLC for final payment on a car loan, which was $1,293.33. Count 6 is an unauthorized online payment made with funds from the church’s Prosperity Bank account to Citibank for payment on her daughter’s credit card balance, which was $4,020.76.

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