Tennessee mother, son accused of stealing more than $83K from church

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee woman and her son are accused of stealing more than $83,000 from a small church, according to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

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According to investigators, Carolyn Mullins and her son, William “Larry” Mullins, allegedly stole $83,710.82 from Peakland Baptist Church in Meigs County, WVLT reported. Officials said the church has four members in its congregation.

In July 2021, the Meigs County Grand Jury indicted Larry Mullins on one count of theft over $60,000 and Carolyn Mullins on one count of theft over $60,000, according to the television station.

According to the TBI, Larry Mullins was the church’s treasurer and Carolyn was the assistant treasurer, WTVC reported. Larry and Carolyn Mullins were the only authorized signatures on the church’s bank accounts, the television station reported.

A fire destroyed the church’s sanctuary building in February 2019, and members decided to rebuild using $180,000 in insurance checks, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported. The money was issued as three separate checks in mid-March and April 2019, the newspaper reported.

The checks were deposited into the church’s bank account on March 15, 2020, and May 1, 2020, and church officials signed a contract to build the sanctuary for $118,000 in late May 2019, the Times Free Press reported.

By September 2019, $95,000 had been paid to the contractor, WRCB reported. Work on the building was never completed due to a lack of funds, WTVC reported.

After the work stopped, the Mullins’ hired contractors to install heating and air conditioning units and ductwork for $12,244.36, the Times Free Press reported. At the end of December 2019, the church checking account balance was $25.77. On Feb. 11, 2020, the account balance of 77 cents was closed, the newspaper reported.

Carolyn and Larry Mullins reportedly stole the money by making internet transfers and withdrawals from the church account to their personal accounts, WVLT reported. Investigators said the pair allegedly wrote church checks to cash to themselves, and they made personal purchases at Walmart including gift cards, cigarettes, cash back, a ring and clothing, the television station reported.

According to reports, the mother and son transferred $12,221.31 back to the church but still owe a balance of $71,489.51, the Times Free Press reported.

“It’s a best practice for churches to have someone other than treasurer reconcile the monthly bank statements and review financial activity,” state Comptroller Jason Mumpower said in a statement. “Separating financial responsibilities reduces the risk of errors or fraudulent activity.”