Former Oakland Church Treasurer Ordered To Repay Almost $400,000

By Paul T. Rosynsky

San Jose Mercury News
Sept 2011

OAKLAND — A former treasurer of an Oakland church who stole more than
$400,000 from parish coffers was sentenced to a year of electronic
monitoring Friday and ordered to repay most of the money taken from
the St. Vartan Armenian Apostolic Church.

In a plea deal with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office,
which appeared to frustrate several church members, Gary Alexanian,
47, was found guilty of grand theft instead of the more serious
embezzlement crime he was originally charged with.

In addition, Alexanian agreed to repay the money he stole, submit to
a year of electronic monitoring and serve five years probation.

Parish members declined to comment after the sentencing Friday but
in a letter to the probation department, the parish council said
Alexanian deserved prison time for stealing.

“A crime of this size cannot be rewarded with simply a probationary
scolding,” the letter stated. “The criminal activity perpetrated by
Mr. Alexanian has shaken the Church to its core, profoundly impacting
the parish community.”

Alexanian, who was baptized at the church, had stolen the money during
his more than decade long tenure as the parish’s treasurer. The money
was gathered, church members have said, through bake sales and other
yearly fundraising events.

In the letter to the probation department, the parish council said
they erred in putting full trust in Alexanian who they said began
stealing within the first 45 days he was appointed treasurer.

Michael Cardoza, Alexanian’s defense attorney, said his client is sorry
for his actions and began to steal because of financial pressures in
his life.

In a letter to the court, Alexanian said he was ashamed and said
his actions have led to a crumbling of his life, which includes a
pending divorce demanded by his wife and ostracization from the Bay
Area Armenian community.

“Because of my actions, my wife has moved for a legal separation,
we are losing the house and I have personally lost some of my family
members, and all of my friends,” Alexanian wrote. “I acknowledge
that it was selfish, stupid, and before long, things just got out
of control.”

Cardoza said his client hopes the church members will eventually be
able to forgive him.

“What was most shocking to me is the first issue was repayment
of money. Not one member of the church ever asked him how he was
doing,” Cardoza said. “We hope that the church, in their hearts,
can forgive him.”

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