(EL PASO COUNTY, Colo.) — An arrest affidavit for Sara Ann Mock-Butler, the former financial director for Pikes Peak Christian Church, shows that Butler allegedly used almost $350,000 of the church’s money for her own personal benefit, including the purchase of a boat, truck, family vacations, and even lingerie and adult toys.
According to the arrest documents, Butler was employed with the church from 2017 to 2022 as its financial director. In that position, Butler had “sole responsibility for the church’s financial accounts without oversight.”
Beginning in March of 2018, the affidavit states that Butler used increasingly larger sums of the church’s funds every year and deleted evidence of transactions, as well as forged documents to make her purchases appear legitimate.
The first instance of theft occurred on March 7, 2018, in which Butler withdrew $7,000 in cash from the church’s checking account, then an additional $2,700 the following day. Later that month, Capitol One received a payment for $17,700 from Butler, paying off an auto loan. There was never any annotation in the church’s bookkeeping records stating the purpose of the cash withdrawal.
The affidavit shows that shortly after the first instance, Butler then used church funds for purchases from Chipotle and Amazon, and also paid her own personal insurance bill.
Following those purchases – years of snowballing financial crimes using church funds:
- Paid her mother’s credit card accounts to the tune of more than $38,000
- Abundant personal purchases of groceries, camping supplies, clothing, home improvement, electronics, and even an adult toy and rechargeable batteries
- Checks made out to Butler herself, her mother, and her husband
- Utility payments and mortgage payments
- A Tahoe boat and a down payment on a new 2020 Ford F-350 truck
- Vacations to Jellystone Park and Disney World for her family
According to an interview conducted by law enforcement, Butler said most transactions made on behalf of the church required prior authorization by at least two people. The affidavit reveals that Butler would frequently double sign her own name as authorization, submit duplicate purchases, or utilize the authorization stamps of other church leaders without their authorization or knowledge.
Some purchases had no receipts or authorization at all. In one instance, Butler used the authorization stamp of a church employee who was ill to approve her own purchases. That employee later passed away, and the current and former pastors of the church told law enforcement that they believed Butler “took advantage of [the employee’s] signature stamp” during his illness to make her purchases appear legitimate.
Butler utilized multiple methods of accessing the church’s money for her own gain, the affidavit states, including personal checks, cash withdrawals, direct transfers, and credit and debit card purchases. The Colorado Department of Revenue also investigated Butler in connection to these crimes and found her liable for evading $16,723 in taxes.
According to the affidavit, Butler’s crimes were discovered after a new pastor took over duties at the church and requested a financial board to approve expenses, and Butler then resigned in May of 2022. She stayed on to train her replacement for a time, and her replacement and the pastor ultimately discovered the financial discrepancies nearing a $200,000 deficit, which the pastor said led to the church being forced to “make decisions about laying off employees and cutting specific ministries.”
In an interview with law enforcement during the investigation, Butler declined to explain many of the purchases. When questioned about her transfer of nearly $20,000 from the church’s checking account to her own in order to purchase a Tahoe boat, along with a memo attached to the documentation of the purchase stating “buying a boat,” Butler said “I honestly can’t tell you that right now.”
In total, she utilized $341,519.25 of the church’s money for her own use.
Butler’s arrest warrant was issued on 896 counts of financial crimes, including one count of Theft, one count of Cyber Crime, 296 counts of Money Laundering, 527 counts of Identity Theft, 61 counts of Forgery, six counts of Tax Evasion, and five counts of Filing a False Tax Return.
Butler turned herself in on Wednesday, May 31. She is due in El Paso County Court on June 8.