SA woman guilty of church collection theft

Kerry Ann Keen has been found guilty of stealing over $300,000 from Catholic Church collections.
Kerry Ann Keen has been found guilty of stealing over $300,000 from Catholic Church collections.

An Adelaide woman has been found guilty of stealing more than $300,000 from Catholic Church service collections over a period of almost four years.

Kerry Ann Keen was found guilty of theft and aggravated theft in a verdict handed down in the District Court on Friday.

Judge Stephen McEwen found that Keen was "systematically, intentionally and dishonestly" understating the total amount of money collected and keeping a portion.

"I find she was doing so dishonestly, without the church's consent and without any right of claim," the judge said in his reasons.

"In my view, those findings are the only rational conclusion from the entirety of the evidence."

During the period of offending between July 2010 and May 2014, Keen had worked for a company called Secure Cash which was engaged to collect, count and bank money from collections at various churches.

Her offending came to light after the church noticed a discrepancy between the spreadsheets Keen supplied and pre-counts it conducted.

In the last of those pre-counts, a church finance officer had recorded the serial numbers of some notes while police had installed CCTV cameras in the Secure Cash office.

Video of the accused showed her putting cash into her bag and when she was arrested, detectives found $3100 in notes with some of the serial numbers matching those previously recorded.

At her trial, Keen pleaded not guilty and argued that she was being set up by others who had taken money only when she was counting.

In reaching his verdict, Judge McEwen detailed forensic accounting evidence which revealed a significant difference between the income of the accused and that of her husband compared to her expenditure.

He said that pointed to unexplained wealth during the time she was conducting counts for Secure Cash.

Analysis of Keen's financial affairs also revealed extensive overseas travel during the relevant period including multiple trips to England, the US, New Zealand, Tahiti and Fiji.

Her accounts also showed spending of $97,000 at retail and department stores, including $26,716 on Louis Vuitton products including handbags, wallets, shoes and a purse.

Judge McEwen said the amount of interstate and overseas travel was impossible to reconcile with the family income.

"There were questions to witnesses suggesting cash payments from Secure Cash, but there is no evidence of these," he said.

"In any event, cash or bonus payments, family loans or gifts or gambling wins could not plausibly account for the excess of expenditure over income in this case."

After the verdict, prosecutors asked for Keen's bail to be revoked, but the judge declined, ordering her to return to court on February 14 for sentencing submissions.

Australian Associated Press