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Former Lifeway Credit Union employee charged with fraud

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NASHVILLE (BP) – An operations and marketing director for Lifeway Credit Union has been charged with embezzling more than $242,000 between October 2016 and February 2021.

The charges against Monica Jackson, 42, came about from findings by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and were filed Thursday (Oct. 28) by acting U.S. Attorney Mary Jane Stewart for the Middle District of Tennessee. Jackson, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., was part of a management team where she oversaw the credit union’s operating activities such as lending decisions and ordering cash, the filing said. She stole approximately $242,156.

Jackson’s access to the credit union’s cash vault led to her allegedly stealing more than $47,000 by placing small bills in “bands” of larger bills to make it appear each band of larger bills – such as $20 or $50 bills – was full. According to the charges, she also took approximately $167,312 by opening lines of credit in the names of family members before transferring those funds to accounts under her control.

Another $27,435 was obtained through fraudulent transfers to herself from the account of a deceased credit union member, the document says. Other employees were blind to the actions, the filing said, because Jackson locked access to the accounts by virtue of her administrative authority.

If convicted, Jackson faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Lifeway Credit Union President and CEO Doug Clinton told Baptist Press she resigned without notice in February, leading to an internal probe that exposed “the misappropriation of loan proceeds and other alleged illegal acts.”

“The theft did not negatively impact credit union members, and new controls have been put into place to prevent a similar occurrence in the future,” said Clinton, who has been in his role since September 2018.

“The credit union notified law enforcement authorities and state and federal regulators as soon as the breach was discovered, immediately instituted an internal audit and investigation, engaged an independent, outside forensic auditor and fully cooperated with the FBI investigation into the matter,” he said.

In 1954, the Baptist Sunday School Board (now Lifeway Christian Resources) established a credit union for employees at a desk in its human resources division that eventually became Lifeway Credit Union. It operates as a separate entity with separate financials and leadership from Lifeway Christian Resources. In 2020 it reported $47 million in assets and 2,500 members.

“Lifeway Credit Union apologizes to our members,” Clinton said, “and prays that Mrs. Jackson is treated with equal and fair justice.”

Initial news reports failed to make the distinction between the credit union and the publishing arm sharing the same name.

“We are aware of the recent news release by the United States Department of Justice that a former Lifeway Credit Union employee has been charged with fraud,” said Carol Pipes, Lifeway Christian Resources’ director of corporate communications. “Lifeway Credit Union is a completely separate legal entity from Lifeway Christian Resources, and at no time has the person in question, Monica Jackson, been an employee of Lifeway Christian Resources or had access to any Lifeway Christian Resources financial accounts/systems. No Lifeway Christian Resources funds were embezzled or mismanaged.”