NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – A Catholic nun who ran a suburban New York City college's finances embezzled more than $850,000 and spent it on herself, federal prosecutors said Friday. The U.S. attorney in Manhattan said Sister Marie Thornton used Iona College funds for her personal expenses from 1999 to 2009. As vice president of finance, she submitted false invoices and had Iona pay her credit card bills, the complaint said. It did not detail her expenses.
Thornton, 62, was arrested Thursday and pleaded not guilty in federal court in Manhattan. She was allowed to remain free. Her attorney, Sanford Talkin, said Friday, "I expect us to reach a resolution that all sides will think is fair."
Thornton's religious order, the Sisters of St. Joseph, said Thornton had been recalled and her activities had been restricted. It said she has been ordered to cooperate with investigators and is being given "emotional and spiritual support."
Iona reported a theft last year but did not publicly identify a suspect.
In a statement Friday, still not naming Thornton, the college said, "When it was discovered that the funds had been misappropriated, we took immediate action to terminate the employee."
It said the theft had been investigated and new procedures implemented.
"Today, we have a new CFO and staff in place; we have recovered the majority of the missing funds; and, from the College's perspective, the matter is considered closed," the statement said.
Iona, named for an island monastery off the Scottish coast, was founded in 1940 and has about 4,200 students. Its main campus is in New Rochelle, 15 miles from Manhattan.
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