TRAPPIST, Kentucky — A former employee of the Abbey of Gethsemani and his wife have been indicted for allegedly stealing more than $1 million from the abbey’s mail-order business.
A grand jury in Nelson County, where the abbey is located, returned an indictment May 7 accusing John E. Hutchins and his wife, Carrie Lee Hutchins, with 87 counts of theft. Nearly half of the alleged thefts involved taking more than $10,000.
The thefts allegedly occurred between 2008 and February of this year.
The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville reported on the alleged thefts on the day of the indictments, and also noted that Hutchins, in his defense, said he was the victim of a “cover up” and accused the leadership of the abbey of attacking him in an attempt to hide what he said was sexual misconduct by monks and others at Gethsemani.
The newspaper quoted Nelson County Sheriff’s detective Jason Allison saying investigators were aware of Hutchins’ allegations, but that they were irrelevant to the theft investigation.
According to Trappist Abbot Elias Dietz, who is also president of the abbey’s mail-order business, Gethsemani Farms, the abbey’s leaders discovered “improper financial transactions” in February and reported them to police.
Hutchins had been an employee in the bookkeeping office since 2007. The abbot’s May 7 statement, which was given to local news media including The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville said Hutchins was suspended when the improprieties were discovered and has since been fired.
The statement added that “this breach of trust has been harmful to the network of good will that exists among the monastery’s employees, neighbors, visitors and benefactors. With the help of professionals, the Abbey of Gethsemani is developing a new system of financial controls to reduce the risk of a theft of this nature from happening again.”
The attorney for John and Carrie Lee Hutchins told reporters that his clients will plead not guilty at their arraignment, which is set for May 26.
Forty-two Trappist monks live at the abbey, which was founded in 1848 and is the oldest continuously operating monastery in the United States.
The contemplative monks support themselves by making and selling cheese, fruitcake and fudge, as well as gift items.