Anita Guzzardi, Former Philadelphia Diocese Church Officer Surrenders, Accused Of Stealing $900,000

03/13/2012 04:39 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2012

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA, March 13 (Reuters) - The former chief financial officer of the beleaguered Archdiocese of Philadelphia surrendered to authorities on Tuesday to face charges that she stole more than $900,000 from the church to pay her credit card bills.

Anita Guzzardi, 41, is accused of theft, forgery and other charges involving the archdiocese, the nation's sixth-largest, which is less than two weeks away from the start of a high-profile pedophilia trial.

Monsignor William Lynn faces child endangerment charges, and a priest and a defrocked priest are accused of sexually abusing children between 1996 and 1999. Lynn would be the first high-ranking U.S. cleric to go on trial in a child sex abuse case.

The investigation into Guzzardi began when American Express reported suspicious activity on two of her accounts, according to a statement from the Philadelphia District Attorney's office.

"It was discovered that the defendant had used numerous checks drawn from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to pay on her two personal accounts," the statement said.

She is also accused of using 146 church checks to pay a Chase credit card.

The district attorney said about $150,000 had been recovered and returned to the church.

The archdiocese said Guzzardi was fired last July. She had worked for the church since 1989 and been appointed chief financial officer less than a month before her firing, it said.

She was let go after an internal investigation showed accounting irregularities, the church said.

Authorities said the thefts took place from 2005 to 2011. (Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Daniel Trotta)

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