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Church Leader Caught in Embezzlement Scheme Goes to Prison
Lax internal controls can leave any congregation wide open to theft and scandal.

Key point 7-21. Embezzlement refers to the wrongful conversion of funds that are lawfully in one’s possession. Embezzlement is a common occurrence in churches because of weak internal controls.

An Illinois court sentenced a church trustee to two eight-year terms of imprisonment, and ordered him to pay $278,703 in restitution, for embezzling funds from his church.

A church trustee (the “defendant”) was given two credit cards by his secular employer to cover business expenses. He used them to obtain $278,703 in cash advances. He deposited the funds illegally obtained from his secular employer into a church bank account, which he then made withdrawals for personal use.

The defendant used the money for car payments, air travel, family vacations, rental cars, and his gym membership. He also used some of the money to pay for legal fees and restitution related to his criminal cases.

The defendant’s pastor submitted a letter in which he stated that the defendant and his family had attended the church for about ten years. According to his pastor, the defendant, who was a church trustee and youth ministry coordinator, had oversight of several checking accounts at the church.

After the pastor learned the defendant was involved in theft at the defendant’s employer, he discovered the defendant had been using the church bank account to launder the stolen funds.

The defendant was found guilty of two felonies and was sentenced to two eight-year terms of imprisonment, to be served concurrently.

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August 28, 2019
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