Philly archdiocese financial officer gets prison time in $900,000 theft

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 29, 2012 / 12:12 am (CNA).- Anita Guzzardi, the former chief financial officer of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was sentenced on Friday to two to seven years in prison for stealing over $900,000 from the archdiocese’s general fund over a seven-year period.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler ordered her to pay $646,627 in restitution to the archdiocese in addition to the $260,000 she has already repaid. Guzzardi also faces seven years of probation upon her release.

Guzzardi, 42, pled guilty to theft by deception, forgery and unlawful use of a computer. She asked her family and Church officials to forgive her, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

“If it takes me the rest of my life, I'll try to make up for all the lies, heartbreak, and betrayal I've caused all these people,” she told the judge.

In July 2011 American Express had contacted the Philadelphia district attorney’s office to report suspicious activity with Guzzardi’s American Express accounts. She was using numerous checks from the archdiocese’s general fund to pay her two personal accounts.

She had also been paying her personal Chase credit card with archdiocesan funds. She used 330 checks to take hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Over $370,000 of the charges consisted of cash advances and purchases at casinos across the U.S. and in the Caribbean and Mexico, the district attorney’s office said.

Guzzardi had worked with the archdiocese since 1989. She was named its chief financial officer on July 1, 2011. Two weeks later, the archdiocese placed her on leave and fired her soon after.

Her lawyer Louis R. Busico contended that she was a gambling addict from a family of addicts. He said she felt betrayed and traumatized by the revelations of the archdiocese’s child sex abuse scandal.

Assistant District Attorney Lisa Caulfield had called for a strict sentencing.

“You simply can't give a get-out-of-jail-free card requested by someone who literally partied for seven years on somebody else's dime,” she said, according to the Inquirer.

Insurance covered most of the archdiocese’s cost for the embezzled funds and some of the fees for the archdiocese’s internal investigation. The Philadelphia district attorney’s Economic & Cyber Crime Unit recovered over $250,000 from Guzzardi and returned it to the archdiocese.

In February 2012 Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia announced that internal financial controls would be strengthened in response to the theft.

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