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Church Secretary Charged With Embezzlement

Posted February 1, 2007

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— An employee of a Raleigh church was arrested Wednesday and charged with stealing more than $170,000 from the church, police said.

Anita Copeland, 48, of 2525 Big Sky Lane in Raleigh, is charged with embezzlement in connection with the theft of $171,000 from Ridge Road Baptist Church, authorities said. She had worked at the church as an administrative assistant for almost a decade, police said.

"Everybody liked and respected her, and there are a lot of emotions running through the church right now -- shock, anger, disbelief, but primarily disappointment," church member Phil Kirk said.

Church leaders noticed problems with their finances in November and called police to investigate. They said Copeland suddenly resigned, telling them she was moving from Raleigh to Georgia.

"This has taken place for a number of years, probably in the neighborhood of four or five years," said Jim Sughrue, spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department. "It involved the suspect diverting funds from the church account to pay for things she had personally acquired."

Copeland, who has no previous record, left jail Thursday morning under a pre-trial release program.

"Please don't do this to me an my family," she told WRAL when asked to comment on the case.

Ridge Road Baptist leaders said the embezzlement loss amounts to more than half of the church's annual budget, and they plant to do whatever it takes under the law to get the money back.

They also plan to develop a system of checks and balances in their accounting systems so that such a theft doesn't happen again. An outside auditor will look at church finances on a regular basis, they said.

"Ridge Road is a small church, and we, like a lot of churches, even the large ones, have been struggling financially," Kirk said.

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  • kmartrulz Feb 7, 2007

    Show me the $$$$$$$$$$

  • imthatcostagirl89 Feb 5, 2007

    it's really hard to see so many people against such a kind holy woman. i personally know Mrs. Copeland and her family and through reading all of the nonsense criticism and judgmental comments from all of you people who claim to have inside sources when you truely have nothing but the foul tounges in your mouths to spread rumors and lies like a bunch of fools sickens me. God will bring her through this and she will be found innocent.

    Love & Prayers

  • Ya Rly Feb 5, 2007

    The house grammarian dvedsall wrote: "My grandparents and father was raised in this church and I know it to be a good Christian foundation."

    Subject verb agreement do not match.

    "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

  • inmyopinion3 Feb 5, 2007


    English is not my first language so yes I will have grammar issues, I'm sorry this appears to bother you but so be it. I agree the facts will decide this case not your personal beliefs (thankfully) I never insulted anybody, or at least not that I am aware of, please correct me with factual evidence if necessary. As for my church I dont belong to any one church as you yet again make assumptions. I learned a long time ago that all large bodies, be they churches or anything else dont always have what I percieve to be the truth int thier agendas to that effect I consider myself a independant Christian for want of a better description. Please dont fall out of the buggie with the rattle the next time! PS All grammar corrections are welcomed.

  • nrasbill Feb 5, 2007

    As productive as our conversations have been here on this blog (sarcasm), I would remind folks of all perspectives that kindness is a virtue we all benefit from, no matter what your theology or church membership.

    My understanding of this situation is that evidence has been turned over to a detective, who will be able to look objectively at all of the information available; something we on this weblog cannot say for ourselves. That being said, rather than pointing fingers at each other, why don't we focus on ourselves and let the justice system work this out.

    In the meantime, I'll continue to be praying for Ridge Road Baptist Church, Anita Copeland, and the rest of those impacted by this situation. I hope you'll consider doing the same.

  • dvedsall Feb 5, 2007

    I believe you started the insult flinging. No soapboxes here. I'll let members of "your" church do that. We'll see who's right when the verdict is decided, if there is one. And your lack of proper grammar in your comments shows me your education level is no match to mine.

  • inmyopinion3 Feb 5, 2007


    You seem to be makeing a lot of assumptions for somebody who claims that people shouldnt be making assumptions, you also change your view point to suit the arguement and then resort to personal insults to those who disagree with you, hmmm sounds like a close family member of the lady involved or a blind religioius right person, again only my opinion and it may well be wrong. As for my education level, well I'm happy with it, I'll bet it is almost certainly as high if not higher than your own. This lady is guilty in my opinion of theft and she as you correctly state needs to pay the consequences for these action if found guilty not by me but by a court of law. I'm simply evaluating the facts of the case, you being someone who claims to have been involved in the judicial system should know its the facts that matter not personal emotions as you seem to be exhibiting, oops sorry your right I do have a soap box, and I'm just stepping down off it now the floor is yours....

  • opinionatednc Feb 5, 2007

    "one fith" = 20%. The guilty party needs to repay that poor church $205.2K ($171K x 1.2):

    Leviticus 6: 1-5
    6:1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 6:2 "When a person sins and commits a trespass against the Lord by deceiving his fellow citizen in regard to something held in trust, or a pledge, or something stolen, or by extorting something from his fellow citizen,6:3or has found something lost and denies it and swears falsely concerning any one of the things that someone might do to sin – 6:4 when it happens that he sins and he is found guilty, then he must return whatever he had stolen, or whatever he had extorted, or the thing that he had held in trust, or the lost thing that he had found, 6:5 or anything about which he swears falsely. He must restore it in full and add one fifth to it; he must give it to its owner when he is found Guilty.

  • opinionatednc Feb 5, 2007

    I do not see this as the Church prosecuting anyone. However, for those who think that God would not want this person prosecuted, and believe a church should "just let the matter drop", let's check out what he says in the Bible:

    Numbers 5: 5-7
    5:5 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 5:6 "Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, 5:7 he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.

    Amen, to that!

  • nrasbill Feb 5, 2007