Sheriff: Parishioners stole nearly $40K of church money over two years

Pastor forgives husband, wife for alleged theft
Posted at 8:21 PM, Jan 10, 2017

Sarasota County investigators said husband and wife, Amanda and Nolan Towner, stole nearly $40,000 of church money starting back in Sept. 2014.

Pastor Dave Anderson said they had no clue that some of the church’s money was being spent without their knowledge.

“Amanda was the bookkeeper and it was a very trusted position,” Anderson said. “And, she was filing reports with the trustees and myself. There wasn't a check between her and the reports.”

A few suspicious charges led Anderson to ask Amanda Towner what was going on. That’s when he said they admitted to everything.

“Immediate remorse,” Anderson said. “And, they stood in front of the church and acknowledged it, and they promised to make it right.  Really, really good people are capable of doing some bad bad things.  But, I can say this caught me completely off guard.”

As Amanda worked as the bookkeeper investigators said Nolan volunteered with audio/technical support. 

According to their report, Nolan “used the pastor's credit card number to purchase personal items on Amazon and withdrew money to put in his personal account, while Amanda made monthly payments using church funds. In total, the couple stole $39,471.99 over a two-year period.”

Both are charged with one count of felony scheme to defraud. They bonded out of jail but would not answer our questions for comment outside their Sarasota home.

Anderson said he forgives them and would even testify on their behalf in court if it helps them get a lighter sentence.

“They still are friends, trusted friends and volunteer workers in the church, a very dear family,” Anderson said. (They) just got caught up in something that got away from them and they lost control of the situation.”