Archdiocese of Philadelphia warns of stolen donations

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia said in a letter to donors this week that it had learned that some donations to two annual fund-raising appeals had been “manually mishandled, misappropriated, or not processed,” allegedly by a TD Bank employee who has been arrested.

“Currently, we are working to analyze the level of financial exposure in order to determine restitution for these campaigns,” the letter on behalf of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput states. “It is important to note that this issue could not have been prevented by the archdiocese.

The letter, dated Aug. 24 and signed by Msgr. Daniel Kutys, says the breach could affect both those who mailed donations or put money in baskets passed from pew to pew during Masses. Online donations are not believed to be affected.

The donations by parishioners were made to the annual Catholic Charities and Seminary appeals. The money or checks were placed in separate lockboxes at a TD Bank office.

Donors’ personal information does not appear to have been compromised, Kutys’ letter says.  The letter says it appears that an employee with access to donations kept in the lockboxes was involved. The unidentified employee is no longer with the bank and faces possible charges, according to the letter.

The situation “is being taken seriously and the investigation into this matter is ongoing” by the archdiocese, Kutys says in the letter.  How many were sent is unclear.

Ken Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said Sunday the breach occurred even as the charities followed “best practices for large fund-raising initiatives of this nature.”

He added: “We have been assured by TD Bank that decisive actions have been and are being taken and they are committed to working with us to seek an acceptable resolution.” 

Gavin said church officials became suspicious when reports arose “from a number of donors” that their donations had not cleared bank accounts after a reasonable amount of time.

The Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia and the archdiocese shared those reports with TD Bank.  The bank, in turn, launched an internal review at its lockbox facility and found a “procedural breakdown,” Gavin said.

The thefts apparently took place between December 2016 and July 2017, he said.

Since then, the charities, church, and bank have been working together to assess the scope of the loss.

“The process is an ongoing one,” Gavin wrote. “We hope to complete that process expeditiously, but it is difficult to gauge exactly how much time will be required.”

The archdiocese began mailing letters to those who had received direct-mail solicitations for the two funds and hired an accounting firm to figure out possible restitution.

Judith Rusk Schmidt, a TD Bank vice president for corporate media relations, sent the following statement by e-mail Sunday:

“At TD Bank, we consider the safety and security of our customers our top priority. After an internal investigation, we took decisive action for our customer, and determined that, to the best of our knowledge, all personal information stayed within the bank and was not compromised. We continue to work closely with the archdiocese to address any remaining concerns.”

She did not release the employee’s name.

Church officials say that it takes about three weeks for a donation to be processed. Donors who received a thank you letter or some acknowledgement of their contributions were not likely affected, the letter says. Those who did not receive an acknowledgement within the time may have been victimized, the archdiocese said.

Officials say that anyone who has questions or believes a donation might have been stolen should call 866-812-8700, a hotline set up by the archdiocese.

A copy of the letter is below:

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