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Judge denies early release bid for church embezzler

WARREN — A Youngstown woman who was given probation and a 60-day jail sentence after being convicted of embezzling more than $250,000 from a Newton Falls Catholic parish asked a judge last week to release her from jail.

Judge Andrew D. Logan of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court refused the early release request of Rachelle Barb, 46, of 2718 Normandy Drive, Youngstown, telling her the seriousness of the offenses warranted her to remain in jail.

“I may revisit this at a later date,” Logan told Barb during a Tuesday status hearing. Barb’s attorney, Ryan Ingram, had motioned the court for an early release, stating Barb had to take care of a 10-year-old autistic son because her older daughter had left for college.

“This wasn’t a criminal enterprise,” Ingram said in trying to convince the judge to grant early release for his client. “She has served 15 days and has learned a lesson.”

Barb, who was a bookkeeper for more than five years at SS. Mary and Joseph Parish in Newton Falls, on Aug. 24 was given five years probation — starting with the 60-day stint in jail — for her conviction on an aggravated theft charge. She pleaded guilty to the felony June 1 before Logan.

At the August sentencing hearing, Barb told the judge that years of depression turned into a gambling problem, which led her to embezzle more than $250,000 from the church.

The judge ordered full restitution and he didn’t budge from that figure even though Ingram said the Diocese of Youngstown had agreed to a $150,000 settlement.

Barb also will have to perform 200 hours community service, attempt to pay restitution to the church and continue her mental health counseling. The judge also ordered her never to step inside a casino again as well as to refrain from playing the lottery or any other forms of gambling.

Barb expressed sorrow for her actions. She was the subject of a criminal investigation, reports said, after she left her job in the summer of 2019 as bookkeeper / secretary. Church officials didn’t seek a prison sentence for Barb.

Investigators found out Barb had a personal account at the same bank as the parish’s account and had linked the two electronically. The electronic transfers from the two accounts occurred from Jan. 1, 2014, through June 30, 2019.

Pat Kelly, the diocese’s chief financial officer, commended the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office and Prosecutor’s Office for competently handling the case.

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