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Polk County woman accused of stealing $768K from baptist church

Posted at 2:56 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 18:25:43-04

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — A Polk County woman has been arrested after being accused of stealing from a Winter Haven church for an estimated $768,000.

Sharon Bradley of Lakeland was arrested Wednesday for several felony counts including grand theft over $100,000.

Detectives tell ABC Action News, Bradley has been stealing from Calvary Baptist Church for at least the past five years. In that time, the money was spent on personal credit cards, car payments, clothing, a dating service account and a brand new $50,000 pool.

According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, the church's financial committee admitted they knew Bradley was bad with the numbers but didn't think she was stealing from them. The head Deacon reiterated Calvary Baptist didn't know anything was going on until late 2019.

"I will be honest with you, I never had any questions about that because my tithe goes in every week. I’ve never had a question about that and I never had any concerns or I would have never done it," Mike Pruitt, the head deacon of the church told ABC Action News.

Pruitt decided to have the church audited in 2019 because a new pastor was coming in and the financials hadn't been investigated for years. That's when Pruitt says he requested records from Bradley and received a strange screenshot.

In the screenshot, Pruitt could see a line of credit for $225,000 in the church's name, however, the church didn't use that specific bank. He later found out Bradley had opened the line of credit using the church's information.

"I thought it was just that we had that much available to us as most everybody else did in the church is that we had a line of credit, we knew we had a line of credit but that there was never any approval by the church to use it. So it was staggering," Pruitt said.

Investigators say when Bradley was confronted she quit and left the church with $190,000 in debt.

"I cannot fathom how anyone could do this, much less someone employed at a house of faith," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Despite such a large balance, the church says it will be OK financially.

Bradley was arrested and is currently being held in the Polk County Jail.

Sheriff Judd says the case is still under investigation.