Sister Marie E. Thornton, a former vice president of finance for Iona College and a nun, was arrested on Thursday on charges of embezzling more than $1.2-million from the Roman Catholic college over the course of 10 years.
Federal prosecutors collaborated with the Department of Education in bringing the charges, which were announced by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan in a news release issued Thursday evening. According to the release, Sister Thornton surrendered Thursday morning and was presented in federal court in Manhattan. It was not immediately known how she will plead.
According to the news release, Sister Thornton allegedly diverted college funds for her own use by turning in false vendor invoices for reimbursement and submitting credit-card bills for personal expenses to the college.
Iona College, in a statement issued Thursday evening, disputed the size of the theft, calling the $1.2-million figure "significantly inaccurate."
The college, located in New Rochelle, N.Y., had previously disclosed that it had fired an unidentified employee for misappropriating approximately $80,000 a year over a decade. Another employee thought to have been involved in covering up the fraud was also fired.
In its statement on Thursday, Iona said that it had taken immediate action after discovering a year and a half ago that an employee had misappropriated funds, and that it had conducted a follow-up investigation and put preventive procedures in place. The college also said it had recovered most of the missing money but declined to comment further.
Sister Thornton's arrest was first reported on Talk of the Sound, a New Rochelle blog.
Sister Thornton served as Iona's vice president for finance and administration for roughly a decade, and she previously was assistant to the president for five years, according to the college's financial documents. She holds a doctorate in educational administration from Fordham University and previously spent time as a teacher, a principal, and a deputy school superintendent.
Paul Fain contributed to this report.