West Salem woman pleads guilty to embezzling over $800,000 from Onalaska church

A West Salem woman has pleaded guilty to financial and tax crimes in a scheme to defraud an Onalaska church of $832,210.

Barbara L. Snyder, 59, pleaded guilty Friday, August 25, to wire fraud and filing a false income tax return, according to Jeffrey M. Anderson, acting United States attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin.

The fraud and tax charges stem from accusations that Snyder embezzled over $832,000 from St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Onalaska.

Snyder served as the secretary and accounting clerk for the church, and the embezzlement she’s accused of took place between 2006 and 2015. Snyder took a portion of the church’s funds during that time and used them for gambling, according to Acting U.S Attorney Anderson.

To avoid detection, Snyder discarded records of church collections, created false entries in accounting records and lied to church auditors, Anderson said. Snyder filed a false Individual Income Tax Return for 2015, where she underreported her gross income, Anderson said.

Acting U.S. Attorney Anderson said, “This office is committed to prosecuting financial and tax crimes, especially in cases such as this which involve a long-term scheme and significant financial loss by the victim.”

“Barbara Snyder abused her position of trust within the church by stealing from the collection plate and spending part of it gambling,” Acting Special Agent in Charge Hubbard Burgess, St Paul Field Office, IRS Criminal Investigations, said.

IRS Criminal Investigations lead to the charges against Snyder.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Trillo says says cases like this can be difficult to prove because it involves taking cash from a business.

“The way you go about proving that is if you find what the person’s expenses are so if you know that person makes let’s say you know 40 grand a year, but her or his expenses are as much as a 140 grand a year, then there’s definitely an increase in income there,” Trillo said.

Trillo says that’s why it was necessary to find the casino records, because that’s what ended up proving the case.

The church released a statement that says, in part:

“Please be assured that no donations made to our parish by check or credit card were affected, and that none of our parish’s endowment trusts or restricted funds were impacted in any way.”

Snyder faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud charge and up to 3 years on the tax charge. U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson scheduled sentencing for November 9, 2017.