Fayette County

Catholic Action Center worker charged with stealing hundreds of books

A former Catholic Action Center volunteer appeared in court Monday after being accused last week of stealing hundreds of books and reselling them for thousands of dollars.

Diana Duncan, 50, allegedly stole the books from the Catholic Action Center's God's Net program. The books would have been sold on Amazon.com and could have netted $20,000 to $30,000 for the non-profit organization.

That money would have been used for upkeep and utility costs for the center's housing programs, co-director Ginny Ramsey said.

"It puts us at a disadvantage, particularly in December and January when utilities are so high," she said.

Duncan got about $3,500 for the books at Half Price Books, a used-book buyer and reseller with a store in Hamburg, Ramsey said.

According to a police report filed in Fayette District Court, Duncan admitted to stealing about 200 books. She was charged with theft by unlawful taking of $10,000 or more, a felony.

The thefts occurred during the course of more than a month, the document said.

Duncan appeared in Fayette District Court on Monday, but the hearing was continued until Dec. 6.

Duncan had been receiving services from the Catholic Action Center for about four months. In exchange for housing in St. Anne's House, a home for women on Chestnut Street, Duncan worked for God's Nest, accepting donations and helping customers, Ramsey said.

"She came to us as a terribly depressed and homeless woman in July," Ramsey said.

Duncan showed signs of progress.

"Everything she was doing, we were so excited about it. She snapped out of the depression," Ramsey said.

Duncan had made such progress that she began receiving less supervision, Ramsey said.

"We trusted her beyond the trust of most of the folks who were in our housing," she said.

Ramsey said it appeared Duncan took the books a few at a time. She was caught after another Catholic Action Center volunteer shopping at Half Price Books saw Duncan selling a box full of books.

Half Price Books' corporate headquarters in Texas contacted Ramsey on Monday. It has offered to "work with our organization," Ramsey said.

Bond for Duncan was set at $500, and she was being held at the Fayette County Jail on Monday. She could not be reached for an interview.

Ramsey said that after Duncan is released from jail, she would be welcomed back to the Catholic Action Center.

"We're not saying this might not be a wake-up call for her and maybe put her on the right track," Ramsey said.

"She will be welcome back. But it will be with a lot tighter rein."