A longtime member of a Union County church has been charged with stealing about $28,000 from the Sunday collection plate over an 11-year period.

William J. Biunno, 71, a former trustee and member of the choir at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church allegedly took the money during Sunday mass after it had been collected from parishioners, police Sgt. Vincent Gagliardi told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Friday's newspapers.

The church caught on late last year after one official noticed something unusual on footage from a surveillance camera inside the house of worship, authorities said. Since the camera wasn't at a good angle to see all of Biunno's actions, church officials added other cameras that clearly showed Biunno pocketing the money.

Church officials brought the tapes to police, removed Biunno from his position as a church trustee and forbid him from helping with the collection. Giving few details, the church told parishioners in March about the problem, and said it had been referred to the police.

Biunno, who declined to comment to the newspaper, continued to be an active church member and attended religious events, right up until he was charged.

"I can't say enough, how sad it is that someone who was in a position of trust, was accused of something like this," said a spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese, Jim Goodness.