A former office administrator embezzled more than $200,000 from a local church to pay her bills, taxes and other personal expenses, according to police, the church’s pastor and court records.
Barrett Isley Kenan, 49, of the 400 block of Plymouth Avenue, was convicted of 44 counts of felony obtaining property by false pretenses after she entered guilty pleas on Jan. 31 in Forsyth District Court. Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Spencer voluntarily dismissed six other counts of obtaining property by false pretenses. Kenan was originally charged with 50 counts.
Kenan was accused of embezzling more than $200,000 from Hope Presbyterian Church on Peace Haven Road.
Judge George Bedsworth of Forsyth District Court consolidated the charges into three separate sentences. Bedsworth gave her a total suspended sentence of one year and three months to three years and nine months in prison.
He also put Kenan on supervised probation for three years. That probation can become unsupervised after 18 months if she doesn’t get into any more legal trouble, according to court documents.
Kenan also paid $100,200 in restitution to the church.
There was no plea arrangement between Spencer and Kenan’s attorney, Michael Grace, according to court records. Chris Clifton, also an attorney for Kenan, said she is happy this is behind her.
“She made a considerable effort to make the church whole, and she appreciated them speaking on her behalf at the hearing as well,” Clifton said, referring to church officials.
Lt. Eric Montgomery of the Winston-Salem Police Department’s financial-crimes section said the investigation goes back to late 2012. As Hope Presbyterian Church’s office administrator, Kenan had access to the church’s debit cards.
“She was using the church’s debit card for personal use,” Montgomery said. “She was paying her phone bills, electric bills, her taxes and other personal needs and utilities. She would make cash withdrawals (with the debit card).”
According to arrest warrants, she used the debit card to pay for items from Total Wine.
Kenan also falsified her work hours at church so she could get more pay, and she falsified documents to cover up her actions, Montgomery said. He said the amount of money she misappropriated was well over $200,000.
The Rev. David Speakman, the senior pastor at Hope Presbyterian Church, said that if the case had gone to trial, church officials would have offered evidence showing that the church’s total loss resulting from Kenan’s actions was about $250,000.
“Given the seriousness of the matter, we felt compelled to pursue justice and to ensure that no other organization or individual would have to face the same crime we have endured at the hands of the defendant,” Speakman said in a statement.
He gave credit to the Winston-Salem Police Department, particularly lead Detective Scott Sluder, and Spencer, the assistant district attorney. Spencer was out of the office Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
“We have prayed faithfully for the defendant and her family for these past two years — for healing, reconciliation, and that this situation would be redeemed for good,” Speakman said.
He said now that the legal process has concluded, the church’s prayers remain the same.
“We eagerly hope that mercy and redemption will triumph in the lives of all involved,” he said.
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