BERKS COUNTY — The principal of a Berks County Catholic elementary school and his wife are facing charges after investigators say they misappropriated more than $150,000 in funds, according to the Berks County District Attorney’s Office.
Thomas James Murphy, the principal of St. Francis Academy and a deacon at the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, and his wife, Ann Marie Murphy, are both charged with fraud, according to the district attorney. They turned themselves in to law enforcement officials Thursday, the district attorney says.
The investigation began in September 2018, when the Berks County Detectives Office received a complaint from a law firm representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown, which reported that funds from St. Francis Academy and the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, located in Bally, Berks County, had been misappropriated.
The criminal investigation yielded the following information, according to the Berks County DA:
- In August 2018, the Roman Catholic Diocese conducted a financial audit at the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish. This audit not only included the Parish, but also St. Francis Academy Regional School. Further investigation revealed that the Principal held a credit card in the name of the school that was used primarily for personal expenses. Based on these initial findings, a Forensic Audit was ordered. This routine audit was the result of some local administrative and personnel changes within the Roman Catholic Diocese.
The Principal of St. Francis Academy was identified as Thomas James Murphy, who was also a Deacon at the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish.
- Through the course of this criminal investigation, the Berks County Detectives Office seized and reviewed financial records dating back to January 2010, up through and including July 2018, associated with St. Francis Academy and the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish. The review of these financial records led the Berks County Detectives to a Chase credit card and checking account at BB&T Bank, which was solely funded by donations and reimbursements through St. Francis Academy and the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish.
- The Berks County Detectives were able to link the Chase credit card and BB&T checking account to the defendants, Thomas James Murphy and his wife Ann Marie Murphy. The Berks County Detectives learned and verified that the defendants utilized the Chase credit card and the BB&T checking account for personal use and expenditures.
- In his position as Principal at St. Francis Academy, Thomas Murphy collected money, cash and checks. He deposited these funds into an account he alone had access to at BB&T Bank. The funds collected and deposited into the bank were earmarked for school business. The Chase credit card was issued to Thomas Murphy and St. Francis Academy. The billing address was Thomas Murphy’s residence, which was a conscious effort and attempt to cover up this wrong-doing and prevent anyone from discovering this fraudulent behavior.
- Additionally, Ann Marie Murphy also had a Chase credit card issued to her in her name from the same account. Berks County Detectives determined the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown has suffered a financial loss of approximately $150,000 during the aforementioned time period.