A Lakeland woman was arrested Wednesday morning for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Winter Haven church.
62-year-old Sharon McClelland Bradley, of Lakeland, is facing charges of felony grand theft of more than $100,000, felony fraud and five other felony charges.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office officials say that, to date, a total of $768,050.73 in stolen funds from Calvary Baptist Church (CBC) has been identified with more than $600,000 of that confirmed.
"This woman systematically stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from a respected Winter Haven church for at least five years before she was caught,” Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. “I cannot fathom how anyone could do this, much less someone employed at a house of faith."
According to a PCSO report, Bradley was hired in 2008 as the finance secretary by Calvary Baptist Church, located at 2101 Overlook Drive SE in Winter Haven.
In late 2019, the head deacon requested copies of the church bank statements based on a digital image seen by church staff that showed an active $225,000 line of credit, connected to another bank account that did not belong to CBC.
At that time, Bradley realized an audit was being performed, and she retired.
The church staff contacted PCSO to do an investigation into the possible theft of church funds. During early 2020, PCSO detectives sent 20 different subpoenas to the various banks and credit card companies with which CBC had accounts. Officials say it was clear that the line of credit Bradley obtained was being used to put money into CBC accounts, which she was then stealing.
There is still a balance of $190,000 on the line of credit that CBC will be responsible for paying off.
PCSO detectives detailed in the release that different bank and credit card company records demonstrated how Bradley used CBC accounts to funnel more than a half-million dollars to her credit card accounts, more than $117,000 to her Mid-Florida Credit Union account, and a pattern of using CBC bank and credit card accounts to make unauthorized purchases.
Further charges are pending a full audit and review from all records obtained during the investigation. Bradley was taken into custody at her home without incident, and booked into the Polk County Jail.