BRENTWOOD — The former nursery school director at a Londonderry church pleaded guilty April 17 to stealing money from the congregation.
Lisa Wallace, 42, of Wakefield, Mass., received a one-year jail sentence in Rockingham Superior Court with 10 months suspended for two years for good behavior.
Wallace fought back tears as Judge N. William Delker chastised her for using a credit card from St. Mark the Evangelist Church to buy $16,671 in items for herself.
Delker agreed with prosecutor Terri Harrington that the mother of three young children acted selfishly when she made dozens of unauthorized purchases.
The judge was also critical of Wallace after her attorney, Sandra Bloomenthal, told of how his client began making the purchases in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts because she and her husband were having financial difficulties.
“That is not what we as a society can tolerate,” Delker said.
Wallace was charged with stealing the money during the four years she worked at the church, where she also handled bookkeeping duties before leaving in June 2012.
She continued to use the credit card after leaving the church, Harrington said.
The Diocese of Manchester contacted Londonderry police in April 2013, after church officials discovered money was missing. Wallace turned herself in to police in June.
The thefts led to the layoff of workers and nearly closed the six-employee nursery school, Harrington said.
Wallace was confronted about the more than 80 unauthorized purchases and insisted she didn’t take the money, Harrington said.
“She denied that there was anything wrong with the transactions,” Harrington said. “She was entrusted to the entire parish, which she let down. From the state’s perspective, it was true selfishness. People lost their jobs because of her selfishness.”
Wallace made purchases in several communities in both states, spending $2,124 in Londonderry alone. Police have said she used the credit card at a salon, clothing store and Dunkin’ Donuts in Londonderry.