MADISON, WIS. -- Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Deborah Marcellus, 63, Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Madison to wire fraud and filing a false income tax return. The fraud and tax charges stem from Marcellus’s embezzlement of over $818,000 from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

Marcellus served as the Director of Development for St. Joseph’s Church. In this position, Marcellus was responsible for handling all financial and accounting matters for the church. While serving as Director of Development, Marcellus began using computer software to generate checks to herself from multiple bank accounts belonging to the church. Marcellus forged the name of church leaders on the signature lines of the checks and then deposited the checks into her personal bank account.

Between 2011 and April 2017, Marcellus generated a total of 201 fraudulent checks from church bank accounts for a total of $818,604.06. Bank records demonstrated that Marcellus used the embezzled money for a large variety of personal expenses, including excessive gambling. During the same time period, Marcellus filed a false Individual Income Tax Return for 2012, in which she underreported her gross income by failing to report the embezzled proceeds.

U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson scheduled sentencing for October 2, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. Marcellus faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud charge and a maximum penalty of 3 years on the tax charge. The charges against her are the result of an investigation by IRS Criminal Investigation and the Rice Lake Police Department, with the cooperation of St. Joseph’s Church and the Diocese of Superior. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Wegner.

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