A former administrator of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair Township was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in state prison and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution on Tuesday.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning imposed those terms following a guilty plea that David E. Reiter, 50, entered three months ago to charges of theft, forgery, records tampering, access device fraud, receiving stolen property and unlawful use of a computer.
He pleaded no contest to conspiring with his wife, Connie Jo Reiter, 45. The couple is from South Park Township.
Jury selection for Connie Jo Reiter’s trial is scheduled for Jan. 22.
The county district attorney’s office charged the couple almost a year ago. David Reiter had been the administrator of the church since 2001.
In court papers, Detective Jackelyn Weibel recorded a history of deceit that had apparently come unzipped several months earlier when the Westminster board’s treasurer reported problems with the firm that was supposedly auditing the church’s accounts.
“While the treasurer told (senior pastor the Rev. Jim) Gilchrist that he had already spoken to Drew Harrison, the church’s assigned auditor from Sisterson & Co., on the telephone, he had been asking Reiter to set up a face-to-face interview with Harrison,” Weibel wrote. “He told Gilchrist that Reiter had repeatedly made excuses as to why Harrison could not meet with him. The treasurer finally called Sisterson & Co. and asked for Harrison, only to learn that there was no auditor by that name employed at the company.”
It turned out that “Drew Harrison” was the church administrator’s alter-ego. Late that November, Reiter admitted to Gilchrist that he’d stolen some $500,000 from the church bank account by transferring it to his own account and then composing fake audits to hide his transgression, according to court documents. Weibel wrote that Gilchrist relayed that information to her a few weeks later, when she met with him during her investigation.
Weibel, a certified fraud examiner, eventually calculated the magnitude of the thefts at more than twice what Reiter initially acknowledged taking.
The church thanked authorities who’d worked on the case and called Manning’s sentence appropriate.
“As a Church, we are committed to seeing healing and wholeness in all aspects of life,” the institution added. “We hold the Reiters in our prayers, hoping to see rehabilitation, restitution and even restoration. We pray for their children as they navigate this difficult season of life. And we pray that we too would experience healing and wholeness as a congregation, able to more fully minister to our neighbors and friends for years to come.”
David Reiter’s attorney, David Obara, didn’t immediately return a message about the case following sentencing.