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Pastor’s Confession of Embezzlement Admissible Due to Lack of Coercion
California
Key point. Confessions of embezzlement of church funds to a government investigator are admissible in a future criminal prosecution so long as they are voluntary, and not made during a custodial interrogation unless a Miranda warning is provided in advance.

A federal court in California concluded that a pastor's confession to two IRS agents that he stole over $1 million from his church, and did not report the stolen funds as taxable income on his tax return, was voluntary and not coerced, and was not made during a custodial interrogation. Therefore, the confession was admissible in a criminal prosecution of the defendant, even though he had not been given a Miranda warning. At approximately 1:45 p.m. on the afternoon of October 17, 2012, two special agents of the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit approached a priest (the "defendant") in the parking lot of a Catholic church. As the agents approached the priest, they identified themselves, displayed their badges, and asked whether they could ask him questions regarding his tax returns.

The defendant agreed to speak with the agents, but suggested that they do so instead at a nearby church where he was the priest. The agents agreed, and the three made their way to the other church. Inside the church, the defendant directed the agents to a room off to the right side of the church vestibule, and suggested they have their conversation there.

The agents first asked the defendant about his background, including questions about his education, employment with the church, sources of income, financial assets, and bank account and related assets. The defendant explained that he earned approximately $32,000 a year from the church, not including a housing allowance of $1,000 a month, and gifts from parishioners totaling about $10,000 a year. When asked about his other financial holdings, the defendant explained that he held assets worth about $2 million in bank accounts, certificates of deposit, a vehicle, and a home whose mortgage was fully paid.

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