Woman charged with embezzling from church

For the Bulletin
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

DEERFIELD — Recent indictments filed in Superior Court allege that South Deerfield resident Jeanne Elizabeth Grover, 46, previously charged with embezzling upward of $30,000 from Stillwater Condominium Association, also took money from the First Church of Deerfield.

“Between the two victims, this is $60,000, approximately,” said Deerfield Police Officer Adam Sokoloski, who oversaw an investigation that led to Grover’s arrest Sept. 21, 2017. Most recently, the First Church of Deerfield alleged that Grover, who worked as an administrative assistant there, stole more than $20,000 from congregation members.

According to an initial report filed by Sokoloski in District Court, a representative of the Stillwater Condominium Association came to the police station after being contacted by Greenfield Savings Bank’s fraud and theft prevention division, which reported that $18,173 had been transferred from the condo association’s account without approval over about five years.

The First Church of Deerfield did its own investigation into Grover, who worked as an administrative assistant and often handled the congregation’s money, following a Greenfield Recorder article outlining the Stillwater Condominium Association allegations published Sept. 26, 2017.

“She was able to pay herself through the payroll system more than $20,000 above her wages,” Sokoloski alleged, referring to what the church discovered. Additionally, another $3,000 was found missing from the Brick Church Music Series’ account, and officials suspect that Grover took money from weekly tithe donations.

Simultaneously, Sokoloski said the Police Department, working in conjunction with Town Accountant Brenda Hill, “subpoenaed a number of bank records” that uncovered further scandal “that was a lot more substantial than what was reported” — “approximately $34,000,” and “went back to 2013.”

Grover, who was previously the condo association’s treasurer, was arraigned in Superior Court Jan. 18, facing three indictments. In light of allegations from the First Church of Deerfield, criminal charges were upgraded to fiduciary embezzlement and larceny against Stillwater Condominium Association, and another for larceny against the church.

Grover pleaded innocent on all three counts. Following Thursday’s arraignment, Grover was released on $500 cash bail, with orders to reappear before the court in April.

The newest indictment filed states that “on diverse dates between on or about May 15, 2016, and October 2, 2017, at Deerfield in the County of Franklin, did steal property valued over two hundred and fifty dollars, the property of The First Church of Deerfield.”

“It’s a huge breach of trust because of the close relationship Ms. Grover had with her neighbors,” Sokoloski said. “The victims in these two cases are deeply saddened.”