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Former Church Employee Who Embezzled $450K Gets 5 1/2 Years in Federal Prison

Lisa Dawn Stabeno
Image courtesy of Lubbock County Detention Center and Everything Lubbock

A woman who used to be a bookkeeper for a church in Lubbock, Texas, has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in federal prison for embezzling $450,000. Lisa Dawn Stabeno, 52, was sentenced on Thursday, Nov. 18, and has been ordered to pay back that amount in restitution to Church on the Rock (COTR). 

“Talk is very cheap at this point,” said U.S. District Court Judge James Wesley Hendrix at Stabeno’s sentencing after she apologized for her crimes, reports Everything Lubbock. Hendrix referred to Stabeno’s fraud as “brazen thefts” and said, “You were trusted with accounts and misappropriated funds. You did it again and again and again.” 

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal says that while evidence demonstrates Stabeno stole $450,000, it is possible she concealed the theft of even more funds. 

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Lisa Dawn Stabeno Steals From Church for Five Years

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Lisa Dawn Stabeno began working at COTR, which has over 3,400 members, in the summer of 2013. She started using church funds for her own personal expenses in November of that year. 

The DOJ says that from 2013 until 2018—when the church discovered Stabeno’s fraud and fired her—Stabeno used church funds for expenses that included a car loan, meals at restaurants, clothing, medical costs, and salon purchases. She also used the church’s money to pay expenses associated with a bakery that she co-owned with her daughters.

Stabeno was arrested in December 2020 after a federal grand jury indicted her on six counts of bank fraud. The indictment listed fraudulent expenses not mentioned by the Justice Department, including rent, trips to places such as Disney World and Las Vegas, and family members’ credit card debt. 

During the five years when Stabeno committed fraud, she used credit cards belonging to a pastor and another church employee and later opened two credit cards under her name and one of her daughters. In 2014, she started using Square, a point of sale software, to charge credit cards belonging to COTR.