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Money stolen from collection

September 24, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, PA. - The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but He is not a suspect in the theft of $17,000 in checks and an undetermined amount of cash Sunday from the collection taken at the Cumberland Valley Steve Wingfield Encounter.

Pennsylvania State Police were investigating the theft of part of the offering received on the final evening of the five-day event.

Police said the money and checks were taken between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m. as the collection plates were being passed among the estimated 4,000 visitors under the circus tent off U.S. 11 north of Greencastle.

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"In 22 years of doing this I've never heard of a situation like this," said Fred Baye, the director of public affairs for the Steve Wingfield Evangelistic Association of Harrisonburg, Va.

"We don't know exactly how it happened," Baye said. The association became aware of the theft the next day when one of two people who wrote large checks asked one of the local organizers if his offering had been received.

Baye said that person and another person had written the two checks that totaled $17,000.

"The parties immediately stopped payment on their checks," Baye said.

Local volunteer ushers assigned to different seating sections of the tent took up the offering, Baye said. The victims were sitting in a section of chairs to the rear and center of the tent, just in front of where the sound board for the stage was set up, he said.

Baye said the section had a seating capacity of about 150 people. He did not know how many other checks or how much cash might have been stolen.

"Typically at these kind of events at a crusade, the average donation is $1 to $2 per person," he said.

"We do monitor the collection as it happens pretty closely," Baye said. He did not know whether the checks and any cash were taken by a volunteer or pocketed by someone as the collection plate was passed.

Any funds stolen would not have gone to the Wingfield ministry, but to the local churches and organizations that raised the money to bring the revival to the area, according to Baye. A few days before the crusade began on Sept. 15, Baye said the budget for the event was about $200,000.

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