St. Matthew secretary sentenced to three years in prison

OAK CREEK -- An Oak Creek woman who pleaded guilty to embezzling thousands of dollars from her own church was sentenced to three years (36 months) in prison, plus another five years of extended supervision Tuesday.

57-year-old Darlene Vodvarka was the secretary at St. Matthew Parish in Oak Creek for 14 years.

Before sentencing, Vodvarka read a statement, tearfully apologizing to St. Matthew Parish and to her family. She said she knew her actions were wrong but she couldn't stop herself. "I would like St. Matthew to know how sorry I am about what has happened. I was an employee that was trusted for a long time, and I violated their trust," Vodvarka said in court Tuesday.

Prosecutors say she accepted tuition and charitable payments, and then used accounting fraud to keep most of the money herself.

She told the judge she doesn't have a drug or gambling problem, and that she used most of the money on her family.

According to court papers, in the last seven years, Vodvarka had purchased over $200,000 in gift cards on behalf of parishioners and school parents, but she had only deposited over $8,000 into the church's bank account.

Insurance covered the financial loss listed in the criminal complaint, and the church has changed some of their accounting practices as they move forward, and a church official says they're hoping to learn to forgive.