A 52-year-old Texas woman has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in federal prison, as part of a plea deal, for using more than $450,000 from church funds for personal expenses, the Department of Justice said.

AP Images/Paul Vernon

U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix sentenced Lisa Dawn Stabeno from Lubbock, Texas, this week, calling her actions “brazen thefts” from Church on the Rock and ordering her to pay $450,000 in restitution in addition to her prison sentencing, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Chad E. Meacham, said in a statement.

Stabeno, who worked as an accounts manager for Church on the Rock’s “Dream Center,” an outreach program for “underserved individuals,” pleaded guilty in May to two counts of bank fraud.

In plea papers, she admitted that she began embezzling from the church in November 2013, just four months after assuming accounting responsibilities.

During the sentencing hearing this week, Stabeno cried while apologizing.

After the apology, Judge Hendrix said, “Talk is very cheap at this point,” the news site Everything Lubbock reported. “You were trusted with accounts and misappropriated funds … You did it again, and again and again.”

“She began by using two credit cards — one assigned to a church employee and one assigned to a pastor — to pay personal expenses, including a car loan she co-financed with her daughter, medical and dental expenses, clothing, salon services, and restaurant meals. She also used the credit cards to purchase supplies for a bakery she co-owned with her daughters.”

In addition, she used the cards for rent payments, car payments, credit card payments and vacations to “Disneyland, LegoLand, Six Flags over Texas and Las Vegas,” KCBD reported in May, adding that court documents also accused her of using church funds to make payments to individuals, including multiple family members, who “purportedly performed work for her business,” to supplement her business income.

Court documents also revealed she made 128 unauthorized online transfers.

In a separate fraud case reported by The Christian Post, a Maryland pastor was indicted last month for allegedly arranging fraudulent marriages of foreign nationals with American citizens to give them permanent residence in the United States in exchange for thousands of dollars, the Department of Justice said.

Joshua Olatokunbo Shonubi, a 50-year-old pastor at NewLife City Church, Inc. in Hyattsville, allegedly arranged 60 fraudulent marriages between January 2014 and January 2021 to secure permanent residence for foreigners, according to the indictment, ABC 7News reported at the time.

The indictment alleged that Shonubi, “often utilizing his role as pastor of NewLife, directly or through others, recruited and groomed U.S. citizens, including economically disadvantaged citizens, with payments and promises of money in exchange for marrying foreign nationals, then sponsoring the foreign nationals for permanent residence in the United States through USCIS,” the Justice Department said.

Leave a Reply