Things with the St. Paul’s dissidents are getting uglier by the minute, and it increasingly appears a criminal investigation is warranted. That’s because in 2020 alone, Beth Abrahamson wrote checks to herself totaling $1,481.91. And she personally signed the checks. Nor does the amount include checks she wrote to Montvale Landscaping and Piatt family members—all relatives of hers. And none of the checks are supported by a paper trail or other documentation. None. This is utterly unacceptable according to any normal business practice or standard of good governance.
That begs several questions:
- What individual with a shred of integrity would write and sign checks under these circumstances?
- Or with any sense of self-preservation?
- And why would you fail to maintain evidence to show that transactions were legitimate?
As our grandmothers used to say, “She doesn’t have half the common sense God gave a goat.”
To make matters worse, Abrahamson’s bookkeeping is remarkably (or deliberately) sloppy, with several checks handwritten. Moreover, there is no second signature—a bare minimum when, as here, transactions give the appearance of possibly illegal behavior.
To make matters worse, even if the checks were for legitimate expenses, Beth is not authorized to sign them. Per Episcopal canons, the vestry has responsibility for the church’s temporal concerns. Thus, it must approve all expenses. Not Beth. Not Jeff Piatt. Not her friends. The vestry. We see no evidence that the vestry approved these checks.
Moreover, church canons expressly provide that both paid and volunteer persons serve as fiduciaries. That is a very high standard, and suffice it to say writing checks to yourself doesn’t cut it. Not by a long shot. Even worse, breach of fiduciary duty is the thermonuclear device of civil litigation. In other words, if we were Beth, we’d be sweating bullets right about now.
Thus, Anglican Watch’s recommendation: It’s time for a criminal investigation of Beth. While the evidence we have seen does not conclusively establish malfeasance, every warning sign imaginable is out there. And if she has embezzled from St. Paul’s, we believe she deserves time in prison. Indeed, as Judge Barry (Donald Trump’s sister) said when she sentenced former TEC treasurer Ellen Cooke to prison:
Judge Barry said, [Cooke] had caused suffering for the church, its priests, its parishioners and the needy it serves.
“There’s nothing sacred anymore,” the judge said. “You see today the burning of churches, the looting of churches, the loss of respect for values and institutions that formerly we held dear.”
So, our Anglican Watch advice, worth exactly what Abrahamson paid for it (no, she didn’t write us any checks!), is it’s time to hire a good lawyer, preferably with white collar crime experience. Because we are betting she is going to be spending time behind bars, sooner or later.
And what’s interesting is the recent amateur-hour lawyer letter the attorney sent for Jeff and Debbie Piatt did nothing to advocate Beth’s interests. So we’re increasingly betting that, if it comes to it, the Piatts are going to throw Abrahamson under the bus.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the checks written and signed by Abrahamson:
Note that several checks were written by hand and have other indicia of irregularity. For these and other reasons, we urge the diocese to establish a clean financial baseline and restore confidence in church financial integrity by paying for a forensic audit. In fact, this is so important that Anglican Watch will put its money where its mouth is and contribute $500 towards the cost, subject to one condition only, which is that any fraud or embezzlement be criminally prosecuted.
One final thought: Even if Beth Abrahamson does not land in jail over these questionable accounting practices, the shoddy recordkeeping and failure to adhere to even basic internal control measures should result in her not being permitted any role in cash management or financial reporting for any for- or non-profit organization.
Ed.; The total value of the checks was adjusted to correct for erroneously duplicated checks. Anglican Watch regrets the error.