Clerk accused of stealing over $1m from archdiocese

A 67-year-old second generation Irish woman, accused of stealing over $1m (€750,300) from the Archdiocese of New York, says God has forgiven her but worries her victims will never do the same.

Speaking during an interview on Rikers Island, where she is being held on $750,000 bail, Anita Collins, who already has with a criminal record for theft, said: “I want to apologise to everybody I betrayed.”

“I went to Mass every day,” Collins said. “My faith is strong. I’m praying for all the people I’ve hurt.”

Prosecutors say Collins stole the money over a seven-year period when she worked for the archdiocese as a bookkeeper. Collins insisted from Riker’s Island that “I’m at peace with God” despite being accused of falsifying business records — charges that could send her to jail for up to 25 years if she is convicted.

Prosecutors say she issued 458 cheques recorded as being for legitimate expenses like electricity and office supplies, but depositedthe cheques, written out to her son, into her own bank account.

Collins wore a crucifix and handcuffs at her arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court for grand larceny and falsifying business records.

She is accused of stealing over $1m in money meant to oversee schools and using it to purchase a doll collection and clothing, among other things, prosecutors and the archdiocese said.

Ms Collins acquired a doll collection, $23,000 worth of clothes, $19,000 worth of items from an Irish gift shop and other luxuries while working in a job paying between $35,000 and $50,000 at the Catholic archdiocese.

After the investigation, the archdiocese discovered she was convicted in 1999 of stealing over $50,000 from a temporary staffing agency where she worked, and in 1986 of stealing from another employer, Manhattan assistant district attorney Amy Justiniano told a judge.

Between insurance and potential restitution, the archdiocese expects to recover the funds, he said.

“I want this in the newspapers as little as possible,” Collins said. “I don’t want people to see the archdiocese in a bad light because of this. They’re very good.”

She refused to outline how much she may have stolen.

“I have no idea,” she said when asked if she stole more than a million dollars from the archdiocese. “If that’s what they’re saying, that’s what it has to be.”

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