The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
Jerome Milton, pastor of Open Door Bible Church in Tyler, Texas, stands accused of two counts of credit or debit card abuse against the elderly and one count of property theft between $2,500 and $30,000.
Jerome Rocky Milton, 65, of Tyler, was charged Saturday with two counts of credit or debit card abuse against the elderly and one count of property theft between $2,500 and $30,000. He remained Friday in the Smith County Jail since his arrest on bonds totaling $550,000.
Milton is the reverend for Open Door Bible Church in Tyler, and according to the arrest affidavit, Milton was helping take care of an elderly couple at church and had the power of attorney and finances for them.
The Tyler police investigation began when the elderly couple’s son heard two church members say Milton was misusing his parents’ bank cards and getting them to sign blank checks.
According to the affidavit, the investigation showed multiple debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals from the elderly husband’s bank card. The detective said multiple checks were written from the couple’s account to Milton and his personal and church accounts.
He repeatedly used the couple’s money to make personal payments on his own behalf, according to the affidavit.
Bank records and receipts showed the elderly man’s card was used to make a vehicle payment on Milton’s account with an auto repair shop. Records also showed Milton used the man’s card to pay for a loan at a used car business, the affidavit stated.
When questioned about using the couple’s cards to make his vehicle payments, Milton at first denied the act. When shown the receipt, the detective said Milton could not explain why that happened, the affidavit read.
The document also shows Milton used the couple’s bank cards to withdraw cash between March and July. The cash withdrawals totaled about $3,800.
A detective said Milton could not explain how the withdrawn cash was used for the couple’s benefit. Milton told the officer the elderly man liked to keep cash in his wallet as a reason for the cash withdrawals, the affidavit stated.
During the investigation of the couple’s bank cards, the detective learned Milton was previously the pastor at Greater New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Tyler, which was originally Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
According to the affidavit, Milton was asked to leave around 2018 by church membership because of “his handling of finances and other suspicious behavior on his part.”
Texas Bank and Trust records for Milton showed he deposited two checks totaling $5,000 written to him this past August from an American State Bank account named Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church. The checks were signed by Martha Roane, the affidavit read.
However, that American State Bank account was closed in 2018. Before Texas Bank and Trust officials were notified, Milton withdrew cash and paid bills with a portion of that $5,000, the affidavit read.
The closed account at Texas Bank and Trust had a negative balance of $2,991.52. When Milton wrote the first check of $3,000, the account balance was $21.29, the document stated.
The detective spoke to Kermit Lane, a current deacon with Greater New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, who said the church did not write Milton those checks or any checks since he left the church about three years ago. He also said Greater New Pleasant has never had a bank account with American State Bank, according to the police document.
Lane told the detective Roane died earlier this year, and she was Milton’s personal secretary while at the church. At that time, she had no permission to sign any checks written from the church or make any financial decisions for the church, the affidavit stated.
Milton gave the police a document showing church trustees voted to allow him to open bank accounts in the church’s name. The account, which was closed in 2018, had several donation checks written to the church deposited during the year it was open. Several checks were also written from the account and it was used to pay personal expenses like cable bills and house rent, the affidavit stated.
Lane later told the detective Milton’s document allowing him to open the bank account was false, and Milton was only allowed briefly to access a church bank account to assist with payments for a building while he was pastor. A Texas Bank and Trust official told the detective the bank wanted to prosecute Milton, according to the affidavit.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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