No prison for Delta-area church worker who stole $80K from day care center
A former employee of a Delta-area church's child care center has avoided prison despite pleading guilty to stealing about $80,000 from the center over a six-year period.
Sylvia Anne Goody nearly destroyed Delta Church of the Nazarene and its day care center in the process, the day care's director said. The church is at 6610 Delta Road in Peach Bottom Township.
Goody, 48, of the 300 block of Main Street in Delta, appeared Thursday, April 25, in York County Court, where she was sentenced to five years of intensive probation. The first six months of that probation is on electronically monitored house arrest, according to York County District Attorney's Office spokesman Kyle King.
Goody pleaded guilty March 18 to one count of third-degree felony theft, court records state. She was ordered to pay court costs and restitution. It was an open plea, meaning it was up to presiding Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness to determine Goody's punishment, King said.
"The public has the right to know what she did," said Wendy Krouse, director of the Delta Christian Academy & Child Development Center, which is the church's licensed day care center.
'Legacy of hardship': "What she has left is a legacy of hardship for this place that we have not come out from under yet," Krouse said. "From our estimates, it was well over $100,000 that she took."
The church and its child care center aren't out of the woods yet, according to Krouse.
"She left us owing massive amounts of debt to everyone you can imagine," Krouse said of Goody. "She hadn't been able to pay any of the (church) bills she was supposed to be paying because she was spending the money on herself and her family."
The church and day care center owed money to vendors; owed local, state and federal taxes; and owed about $20,000 to one grocery store alone, with smaller outstanding bills at other stores and businesses, she said. There were other bills as well, she said.
"It was not more than a couple weeks after (Goody) left when the taxman came banging at the door, ready to arrest her and shut this place down," Krouse said.
Nails, hair, clothes: Goody used the money she stole to get her nails and hair done and to buy her husband clothing, among other things, according to Krouse.
Charging documents filed in November 2016 by state Trooper Daniel Weldon indicate that Goody was in charge of payroll and taxes for the church and day care and that she quit on April 11, 2014 — one day after she was locked out of the church's online banking service.
Goody wrote herself 57 extra paychecks totaling about $40,000 between 2008 and 2014, according to court documents. She also used the church's credit card to pay for personal expenditures at businesses including Men's Warehouse, Best Buy, Kohl's and WellSpan, court documents state.
"The unauthorized spending and the additional payroll checks ... have been occurring since at least 2011," Weldon wrote in court documents.
House arrest: Goody's home phone number rang busy the morning of Tuesday, April 30, and by afternoon it was disconnected. Her defense attorney, Joe Gothie, did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Court records state Goody must spend six months on electronically monitored house arrest. She also must pay the church $71,000 in restitution, according to Krouse.
Court documents filed by Trooper Weldon indicate the loss was about $81,700, but Krouse said that's just the amount police were able to prove Goody stole.
"It was five years of absolute chaos," Krouse said. "I'm still making payments, and we're still short of money. ... I've been here 10 years trying to hold things together."
Gagged? Krouse said state police and members of the York County District Attorney's Office repeatedly told church officials they could not speak publicly about the investigation into Goody — despite the fact that it took state police about 2½ years to file charges in the case.
"I hated the fact that no one knew how much we were struggling," Krouse said. "Most of our families here at the day care center don't even know what we were going through. We kept being told we were not allowed to say. ... You just feel victimized by the entire process."
Many of the church's parishioners have left the church, Krouse said — disheartened at knowing something was wrong but unable to get straight answers.
"The church is now down to a handful of members," Krouse said. It is looking to replace retired longtime pastor the Rev. Robert Reter Jr., she said.
Krouse said church officials also are frustrated that although the DA's office told them that in exchange for not receiving prison time, Goody would have to make a substantial initial payment toward restitution, that hasn't happened.
"We haven't gotten anything yet," she said, adding that the church's insurance covered only $2,500 of the losses.
King, the DA's office spokesman, said the case was moving toward a jury trial when Goody entered an open guilty plea, meaning there was no negotiated plea agreement between prosecutors and the defense. He said prosecutors can't prevent defendants from pleading guilty.
Books cooked, missing: In 2013, the state Department of Education reviewed the day care center's financial records — causing Goody to alter bank statements to hide her thefts, court documents state.
Weldon, the investigating trooper, had a senior forensic accountant from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office review the records.
It's that accountant who determined Goody paid herself more than $81,700 over what she should have received in pay, documents state.
Weldon also learned that Goody took with her records of her own employment history, as well as office supplies, when she quit, documents state.
Krouse said it was she and retired Pastor Reter's wife, Linda Reter, who raised the red flag and tried to fix things once Goody's embezzlement came to light.
Frustrations with police: Krouse said the church, initially, received little help from state police.
"The police did not want to (investigate) this. We kept calling them and calling them and calling them," she said. "By the time they did look into it, they said they could only go back five years ... because of the statute of limitations."
An initial trooper was sent to the church in April 2014, but he recused himself in the next day or two because of a conflict of interest, she said. Court documents confirm that trooper was dispatched to the church on April 29, 2014.
The case was reassigned to another trooper, who did nothing with it, according to Krouse. Complaints by church officials about the lack of action in the case twice led to internal-affairs queries within state police, she said.
"It finally got passed on to Trooper Weldon," who took about two weeks to file charges against Goody, Krouse said. That happened in November 2016, court records state.
Ryan Tarkowski, communications director for the state police, responded by email:
"This was an extremely intricate case that involved the embezzlement of several hundred thousand dollars. The investigation included an extensive forensic audit of more than six years of financial records, with assistance from the White Collar Crime Center and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. Several search warrants were also prepared and served throughout the investigation. The defendant was charged within 30 days of PSP receiving the results of the forensic audit."
Still afloat: The day care center is still afloat, and it is in a better place now than several years ago, according to Krouse.
The church increased its mortgage and used the extra money to pay off its IRS bills, she said, and has implemented safeguards to ensure this can't happen again.
"It would be nice to see some of the (restitution) money," Krouse said. "I don't know. We would have liked to have seen her do jail time. I think that would've been more of a (deterrent) for her not to do it again."
But according to Krouse, Goody "could probably talk her way out of anything."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.