Bookkeeper For Christian Group Based In Chattanooga Stole $394,000, Prosecutors Say

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The bookkeeper for a Christian organization based in Chattanooga stole $394,000 from the group, federal prosecutors say.

Gwen Lively has agreed to plead guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Ms. Lively began working in 2010 at Titus International, a mission on McBrien Road that aims to teach nationals around the world to evangelize their own people.

Prosecutors said Ms. Lively began a scheme shortly after she joined the organization to defraud it using two methods.

In one she would transfer funds from the Titus account at Cornerstone Bank into accounts controlled by her.

In another, she would use checks pre-signed by director Fred Bennett to make them payable to herself and others.

Mr. Bennett was informed in July 2014 by Cornerstone Bank officials that Ms. Lively had made several unauthorized withdrawals from the Titus account. They went to accounts she controlled.

Authorities said Mr. Bennett then arranged a meeting with Ms. Lively and confronted her with the withdrawals. He said she responded, "I did it. I did it."

The next day, Ms. Lively sent a text message to Mr. Bennett asking if she could repay a large sum, then make regular payments to avoid prosecution.

Cornerstone Bank then conducted a forensic evaluation of the Titus account. It found that Ms. Lively had been embezzling money from the group since July 2011.

There were 145 checks from the Titus account written to Tiffany Lively, Tiffany and Phillip Lively, or Hamilton Heights Christian Academy. These checks totaled over $250,000. The signor on the checks was "Fred Bennett."

Authorities said Ms. Lively did not have the permission of Mr. Bennett or anyone else at Titus to write the checks.

It was also found that Ms. Lively also made unauthorized Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfers of over $250,000 from the Titus account to individual accounts controlled by her.

The two amounts totaled over $500,000. However, officials said some of the amount should be counted as salary for Ms. Lively, leaving a loss amount of approximately $394,000.

Prosecutors said as an example of the fraud, on June 10, 2014, Ms. Lively wrote a check from Titus' account at Cornerstone to Hamilton Heights Christian Academy for $4,512.50.







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