Former church secretary sentenced 52 years for embezzlement, grand larceny

Page News and Courier

LURAY, Jan. 20 ― A former church secretary of the St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church in Luray was sentenced last week in Page County Circuit Court.

After pleading guilty last year to 26 felonies, Ellen Housden Fields, 53, of Luray, was sentenced last Wednesday to a total of 52 years, all of which was suspended except five months.

In June 2014, Fields was indicted on 44 separate counts of felony embezzlement from the Luray church of amounts exceeding $200, stemming from incidents that occurred over a six-year period, between 2008 and 2014.

The next month, Fields was named in 11 additional indictments in July 2014 for felonious credit card fraud of amounts exceeding $200 in any six-month period, between Jan. 9, 2009 and Jan. 1, 2014.

On Nov. 9, Fields pleaded to two embezzlement charges, as well as 24 counts of felonious grand larceny, which had been amended from initial embezzlement charges.

For each of the 24 grand larceny charges, Fields was sentenced to two years by Page County Circuit Court Judge Clark Ritchie — a total of 48 years, all of which was suspended.

Ritchie sentenced Fields to two years for each count of embezzlement — a total of four years, with all but five months suspended.

“The Virginia sentencing guidelines — as far as active time served — dictates anywhere from one day to six months,” said Page County Commonwealth's Attorney Ken Alger.

Prior to her court appearance last week, Fields had repaid about $50,000 in restitution, Alger added. On Wednesday, Fields paid the remaining $7,627 in restitution to the St. Mark church.

Fields will additionally be under supervised probation for five years. She is being held at the Middle River Regional Jail in Staunton.

Following her indictments last June, Fields was dismissed from her 21-year tenure with the local school system. Fields, a Page County native, began in 1993 as an accounts payable clerk for Page County Public Schools.

She held the position until 2007, when she was promoted to clerk of the school board, as well as director of transportation.

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