Austin woman charged with swindling school; Accused of taking money from 2014 to 2015
ALBERT LEA — An Austin woman charged with swindling almost $200,000 from St. Theodore Catholic school and church pleaded guilty to two counts of theft by swindle today in Freeborn County District Court.
Ryan Mae McFarland, 37, originally faced nine felony counts of theft by swindle.
She pleaded guilty to swindling more than $35,000 from St. Theodore Catholic Church from January 2014 to January 2015, and swindling more than $5,000 but less than $35,000 from St. Theodore Elementary School from August 2013 to February 2015.
According to court documents, the stolen money had been given to the church and school from the Diocese of Winona, parish members of the church and families with children attending the school through offerings, donations and fees.
Court records allege the misappropriation took place from Aug. 30, 2013, through Feb.3, 2015, though there was some question as to whether it could have started as early as 2012.
McFarland administered payroll for all of the church employees; oversaw the health insurance, flex and pension benefits for all parish and school personnel; and counted contributions for the church.
In addition, she kept the books for the church and the school and sent financial reports to the Winona Diocese on a monthly basis.
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 29.
Freeborn County Attorney Craig Nelson said he expects McFarland to face a 20-year probationary sentence and pay restitution.
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