In addition to cash and checks, Holy Name Catholic Church’s Father Ernest Bayer says grocery store gift cards were stolen from a locked cabinet in the church office.

Photo by Matt Stensland

In addition to cash and checks, Holy Name Catholic Church’s Father Ernest Bayer says grocery store gift cards were stolen from a locked cabinet in the church office.

$6,000 to $7,000 in donations stolen from Holy Name Catholic Church

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Protect yourself

Local bank employees recommend that anyone who wrote a check to Holy Name Catholic Church during its annual “Work of Human Hands” craft bazaar Nov. 22 contact their bank to cancel the check and consider closing and reopening their bank account.

To re-donate to the church, or to contact the church with questions, call 879-0671.

Anyone with information about the theft is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 870-6226.

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Holy Name Catholic Church office assistant Carol Ward fills out a deposit slip Thursday for money not taken from the church.

— Holy Name Catholic Church and its charities took a significant hit last week when several thousand dollars in donations was stolen from a locked cabinet in the church office.

Church secretary Betsy John­­ston said someone apparently broke into the church office sometime after Nov. 23, took keys out of her desk and opened a locked file cabinet that contained donations received by the church during its annual “Work of Human Hands” craft bazaar Nov. 22.

The loss includes about $2,000 in cash and another $4,000 to $5,000 in checks made out to the church. Most of the money was destined for Third World artisans who made goods sold at the bazaar, but some of the funds also were designated for other charities and the church’s weekly community dinners.

Johnston said the suspected thief or thieves probably entered the church office in the 500 block of Oak Street through an unlocked door. The cabinet was locked again after the money was stolen, and church staff only unlocked it again Thursday when a spare set of keys was located. The church reported the theft to the Steamboat Springs Police Department on Thursday.

Sgt. Rich Brown responded to the call and took a report from the church. He said there was no forensic evidence from the scene but that church staffers identified several possible suspects. He said the bigger concern was the information on the checks that were stolen. Brown said burglars will often keep the cash and throw away the checks, but that’s not always the case.

“We write checks all the time, and people have access to the account information on checks, but I don’t know who stole these checks, and one of my concerns is if an account number and routing number falls into the wrong hands, it can be potentially bad,” Brown said.

He said there have been instances of people “washing” checks — erasing the information off the check and reusing it — or people printing fake checks with the account holder’s information.

“With the computer technology and printing technology, people can take that information and print out checks pretty easily if they have the equipment,” he said.

Johnston said copies of the checks and a list of people who wrote checks to the church also was stolen, so they’re asking community members to contact the church and their banks if they wrote checks to the church at the bazaar.

Victoria Doel, customer service representative at First National Bank of the Rockies, said anyone who gave a check to the church should consider closing the account that was affected and opening a new account.

“If you lose one of your checks, it has all your information on it — signature, account information and routing number,” she said. “That’s a lot of information to have in the wrong hands.”

Yampa Valley Bank customer service representative Cheryl Berig suggested the same thing, and said it would take only about 20 minutes to close one account and open a new one.

The specific checks that were written also can be canceled for a fee. That fee varies by bank but is generally about $20.

Wells Fargo branch bank manager Esther Wheeler said canceling and reopening accounts is good, but she recommended that people contact their banks to decide the best course of action.

“It really depends on the individual,” she said. “Some people don’t feel it’s enough to take that step because they have auto-payments set up, and (they) choose to monitor the accounts (instead).”

Johnston said this isn’t the first time the church has been burglarized. A donation box in the back of the church has been broken into several times. It is now secured by a large padlock.

Johnston said nothing else was disturbed or taken and that the theft appeared to be targeted at the bazaar donations. The money collected during weekly church services is stored in a safe in a different location.

Because of the theft, security will be increased at the church, and doors will be locked more often, she said.

“There will be a tighter ring of security because of this,” she said. “It makes you stop and think.”

Anyone with information about the crime is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 870-6226. People who want to cancel their checks and re-donate to the church can call Holy Name at 879-0671.

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