Woman charged with stealing nearly $100,000 from Duryea church

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DURYEA, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A Luzerne County woman is accused of stealing nearly $100,000 from a church. Denise Decker is a former employee of the Diocese of Scranton.

Before being fired in 2019, Decker was one of two secretaries at Nativity of Our Lord. The theft investigation started in January of 2019.

62-year-old Denise Decker is charged with several theft crimes for allegedly stealing more than $98,000 from Nativity of Our Lord parish. Investigators say it all started in 2014. It wasn’t until January of 2019 that members of the church noticed money going missing.

“As soon as they realized that may be the case, they alerted the diocese and we immediately contacted, along with parish staff, the Luzerne County District Attorney’s office who launched that criminal investigation,” said Eric Deabill, secretary for communications with the Diocese of Scranton.

Deabill says the DA’s office and the Duryea Police Department dug deep. According to court paperwork, investigators intercepted Decker’s garbage for several weeks. Inside, they say they found 65 donation envelopes in April of 2019. In September, a search warrant was issued for Decker’s electronic devices where she had access to the church’s financial system and allegedly made adjustments to hide her actions.

Investigators say Decker admitted she had been stealing money from the church for “approximately five years”. We went to Decker’s home for her side. As we were walking towards the porch, the door opened and closed. We gave Decker an opportunity—with no response back.

We spoke with Carole Berry who lives just a few houses down from the church.

“This church, you know, is very well known and they have the school and everything. And they do so much for everybody. I am totally, totally shocked,” she said.

Money stolen would have gone towards the church and its services.

“Every penny that is donated by a parishioner is important to us. So, as this process moves forward of course we are hoping for full restitution in this case,” said Deabill.

Church parishioners are encouraged to ask employees what safe guards are in and have been in place to better understand its policies. For Decker, she was arraigned today and released on $100,000 unsecured bail.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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