Tallahassee woman arrested in theft of $133,000 from church

Posted at 3:30 AM, Jan 26, 2018
and last updated 2019-05-22 18:10:00-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - A Tallahassee woman accused of stealing $133,00 from a church where she served as the volunteer bookkeeper has been arrested for grand theft.

Dorothy H. Nicolo, 70, was released from the Leon County Detention Center after posting a $21,000 bond. She was arrested Wednesday.

From January 2011 to September 2017, Nicolo used Aenon Baptist Church's   Bank of America credit card fraudulently hundreds of times for her own benefit, not to the benefit of the church, according to a probable cause affidavit.

She told a Leon County Sheriff's Office investigator she stole the money and wrote the checks because of "just the lack of my judgement."

Nicolo, who retired from Florida State University as a secretary, said she saw the opportunity to steal because no one wanted to see the books.

She made numerous personal purchases at Sea World and Walt Disney World, the court document said.

She shopped at Academy Sports, Shoe Carnival, Bass Pro Shops, Old Navy, Claire's, Bath & Body Works, Bed Bath & Beyond, Beall's Outlet and Victoria's Secret. She paid bills at Radiology Associates and paid for hotel stays.

Her arrest came after the church's pastor and two deacons reported to the Leon County Sheriff's Office on Oct. 19, 2017, that Nicolo had embezzled more than $100,000.

The church leaders accused her of making fraudulent Bank of America transactions and taking money from the church's bank account at Centennial Bank through checks and withdrawals.

Besides grand theft, Nicolo faces a charge of fraudulent use of a credit card, a charge of organized scheme to defraud of $50,000 or more, and 37 charges of circulating a false financial document.

She stole $105,737.50 from the Bank of America account and $27,275.00 from the Centennial Bank account for a total of $133,012.50, the court document said.

The church learned of the theft after the church planned to spend about $30,000 to pave a parking lot. Nicolo told the church they didn't have the money to do the job. The church thought they had more than $100,00 in the bank account.

Nicolo told the pastor she used the church's credit card but repaid the church in cash by putting cash in the offering plate, the court document said. But the pastor said there was no indication Nicolo had deposited the funds back through the offering.

Nicolo came before the church and told everyone she took money, the court document said, but the church decided to pursue criminal charges.

After admitting to using church funds without authorization, Nicolo gave the church numerous bins and bags of items she had fraudulent purchased with the church's funds.

Among the items she gave the church were two shotguns for her grandsons, 234 bags and purses, 52 shirts and jackets, two Cannon cameras, Sea World figurines, stuffed animals, 472 rolls of yarn, Bluetooth speakers, cell phone chargers and cell phone cases.

She also gave the church luggage, 86 Sea World picture frames, acrylic bears, an Apple Watch, 158 stuffed animals, theme park cups, 76 assorted coffee mugs, glass and ceramic animals, miscellaneous jewelry and hats.

On Nov. 13, 2017, Nicolo read the LCSO investigator a letter dated Oct. 8, 2017, that she had addressed to the church.

"Dear Aenon Church Family: I thank you for this opportunity to express my sincere apology for taking and misusing so much money out of Aenon's bank account and ask for your forgiveness. I really want to express my deep regret for what I have done and ask that I be given the opportunity to repay every penny that was taken out of Aenon's account."

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