NEW PORT RICHEY
Church member stole $44,000, authorities say
An 80-year-old woman was arrested Thursday on charges she stole more than $44,000 from a church group while serving as its treasurer. According to authorities, Earla B. Ferguson, of 10740 Central Park Ave. in New Port Richey, had been treasurer of a women's group at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church since March 2000. The New Port Richey Police say a church member noticed missing funds and contacted authorities. The investigation revealed Ferguson wrote church checks out to "cash" and kept the money, police said. According to her arrest report, Ferguson admitted the thefts and said she did it because she came into "financial difficulty." She said "she knew what she did was wrong and that the money belonged to the church," the report said. Ferguson is charged with scheme to defraud and was released from the county jail Thursday on $10,000 bail. People at the church at 5326 Charles St. are stunned, said Jim DeLa, director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida. "A trust has been violated," he said.
Neighbor's mail used for ID theft
Some of an elderly neighbor's mail ended up in Brett Becker's box one day in 2006. Armed with that information, authorities say, Becker used the woman's identity to set up an account with Playboy.com and VSMedia.com, a video chat system. The woman, who is now 86, noticed a withdrawal of $58.75 from her account in April and went to talk with her bank. She was told the money was being deducted monthly and given the name attached to the charges. She contacted the Pasco Sheriff's Office and the investigation revealed the accounts were set up nearly three years ago, and there had been a total of $2,175.06 in charges. Becker, 37, a Denny's waiter who lives at 11831 Meadow Drive, was arrested Wednesday and is charged with identity theft and scheme to defraud. He was released from the Land O'Lakes jail on $12,000 bail. According to his arrest report, he said the theft began when he "accidentally" opened the woman's mail after it was wrongly delivered to him.
Bodybuilding event tonight at WCHS
The most unusual of Pasco County's graduation season processions across a stage will take place tonight at Wesley Chapel High. The 10th annual Mr./Miss Wesley Chapel bodybuilding competition will be held at 7 p.m. at the school's Center for the Arts. Admission is $6. The event features male and female students, most slathered in posing oil. Girls compete in several categories including symmetry, best legs and the overall Miss Wesley Chapel title. Boys compete in separate weight classes for titles such as best abs and the overall Mr. Wesley Chapel crown. Last year's competition featured 13 girls and 18 boys. Wesley Chapel football and weightlifting coach John Castelamare is the event's organizer.