By GARY POPP
An Ohio man is behind bars in Clark County for stealing $860 from a Sellersburg church, Clarksville police reported.
Billy Dematteo, 36, was booked into the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex on Friday and has since been charged in Clark Circuit Court No. 4 with class B felony burglary and class C felony forgery.
Dematteo’s arrest follows an investigation that began in July, after Gerald Harris, the pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church on Apple Leaf Lane, reported the fraud.
The pastor told police he discovered the church’s bank account was $860 short. And, after going through his own records, Harris determined a bank withdraw had been made for the same amount months earlier in April.
The corresponding check number revealed a payment to Duke Energy, but the check had only been signed, and a payment to Duke Energy had been given over the phone.
Harris told police he believes someone broke into his office in the church and took the signed blank check, and two additional checks.
Clarksville police then responded to Your Community Bank on Lewis and Clark Parkway where a bank manager provided a copy of the fraudulent check written out to Dematteo for $860. The check’s memo line read ﾒlawn care,” according to the police report.
Clarksville police investigators were later contacted by a detective, Mark Hopper, from the Whitehall Police Department more than 200 miles away near Columbus, Ohio.
Hopper told Clarksville investigators that he had arrested two people, Daniel Burke and Renee Michael, for being in possession of and attempting to cash the two other checks that had been taken from the Sellersburg pastor’s check book. Burke and Michael had attempted to cash one of the checks for $840, but had been turned down, according to the police report.
Burke and Michael then made out the second check for $92 and attempted to cash it a Whitehall Checksmart, a financial-services business, where they were arrested.
On Sept. 18, Clarksville police received surveillance footage for Your Community Bank, where Harris kept his bank account.
The video ﾒclearly showed Dematteo cashing one of the church’s stolen checks for $860,” according to the police report.
The following day a full extradition warrant was filled for Dematteo.
During Dematteo’s initial hearing in Clark County Monday, a not-guilty plea was entered an he was given a $25,000 full-cash bond.
A pretrial conference has been scheduled in April.