Turtle Lake resident Deborah Marcellus, 64, who admitted stealing nearly $823,000 from the congregation of Barron County’s largest Roman Catholic congregation earlier this year, was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, in U.S. District Court in Madison.

Marcellus pleaded guilty last July 2 to federal charges of wire fraud and filing a false income tax return in connection with the theft of $822,900 from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Rice Lake, during a six-year period from 2011 through 2017.

Federal authorities charged that, as director of development for the parish, Marcellus generated more than 200 unauthorized checks to herself. Investigators analyzed the church’s accounting software to determine that while the unauthorized checks were originally written to Marcellus, she often quickly changed the name of the payee to a legitimate church vendor. Marcellus also forged the signatures of multiple church leaders on the checks.

U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson admonished Marcellus for “stealing from the people who trusted her the most.”

Federal authorities prosecuted Marcellus after a cooperative investigation by the Internal Revenue Service office of Criminal Investigation, the Rice Lake Police Department, and the cooperation of St. Joseph’s Parish and the Diocese of Superior.

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