In Court: Duo charged in $450,000 church thefts

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  It is a story that has shocked many throughout Columbus- allegations of theft at a local church totaling close to $500,000.

On Monday, the suspects in the case appeared before Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan.

According to the state, Nikiena Bowden was a convicted felon when she was hired as a bookkeeper at Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus back in 2003.

Prosecutors say she embezzled money from her previous employer and told the judge she did the same thing at 4th Street, allegedly taking church checks and cashing them for herself over a period of two years.

Assistant District Attorney David Helmick says she gave some Lalinriafay Wilson who also allegedly cashed the church checks for herself and her and her husband's church.

Helmick says because of Bowden's position in the church, she could cover it up and it wasn't until 2005 when a new bookkeeper was hired that the staff realized the checks and balances were out of whack.

According to prosecutors, $450,000 turned up missing.

Wilson's attorney, Frank Martin, says church staff members received monthly financial reports and any misappropriation of funds would have been caught at the get-go.

The church's pastor, Reverend J.H. Flakes Junior took the stand at today's hearing and told the Judge their books show that checks were missing and funds were stolen and that the church did not know about the alleged thefts before the 2005 discovery. Flakes says checks were written to Bowden and Wilson in amounts of $2000 and $4000- none of which were authorized by his church.

Nikiena Bowden remains in the Muscogee County Jail.

Lalinriafay Wilson is out on bond.

Their case is pending trial.

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