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UPDATED: Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Riley Brown Pleads Guilty to Stealing $332,000 From Church

pastor riley brown

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.

In 2017, Riley Brown, executive pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison, Mississippi, was accused of stealing $332,000 from the church.

The Clarion-Ledger reported:

A Baptist pastor is accused of stealing more than $300,000 over more than two years.

In an emailed statement, officials with Broadmoor Baptist Church said former executive pastor Riley Brown took $332,000 from the church coffers over a “primarily” 27-month period.

Brown could not be reached for comment.

The “transactions” were discovered after an internal policy review in September, according to the statement.

“These transactions were undertaken by one individual, Riley Brown, circumventing our existing internal policies and procedures,” the statement read.

Brown is no longer employed with the church. Church officials are reporting the matter to the Internal Revenue Service and the Mississippi Department of Revenue.

The church will not press criminal charges but will cooperate with prosecutors, according to the emailed statement. Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest was not immediately available.

“As a body of Christ, we sought to find a proper balance between accountability and grace; and given our exchanges in personnel and significant new safeguards and internal controls we have added, and will continue to add, we are confident we can responsibly steward the resources entrusted to us,” the statement reads. “While we choose not to press criminal charges against this individual, we will fully cooperate with prosecutors if it is independently pursued.”

Update

An October 27, 2017, MS News Now report stated:

Broadmoor released a statement that an internal policy review showed that more than $330 thousand dollars was unaccounted for.

The church also said that Brown was no longer with the church and that findings were turned over to the IRS and the Dept of Revenue.

Though he would not take any questions, Brown spoke to us exclusively about the situation.

“I am innocent of any alleged theft. This is a civil matter that was settled two weeks ago.”

….

An email statement from church stated:

As a body of Christ, we sought to find a proper balance between accountability and grace; and given our exchanges in personnel and significant new safeguards and internal controls we have added, and will continue to add, we are confident we can responsibly steward the resources entrusted to us. While we choose not to press criminal charges against this individual, we will fully cooperate with prosecutors if it is independently pursued.

In an October 31, 2017, Clarion-Ledger news report, Brown denied he stole any money from the church:

The former pastor of a central Mississippi Baptist church disputes claims that he stole $332,000 from the church.

The Rev. Riley Brown tells WLBT-TV that he’s innocent of any theft and signed a civil settlement with Broadmoor Baptist Church two weeks ago.

The Southern Baptist congregation in Madison is among the largest in the state.

More: Church says pastor stole over $300,000 from coffers

The church last week said Brown made unauthorized transactions for his own benefit over 27 months. Brown’s lawyer says it’s a dispute over church policy, not a criminal matter.

Broadmoor’s leaders say they’re not pressing charges but have notified income tax officials.

Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest says he was unaware of the claims before the church released a statement but is investigating. The church says it will cooperate if Guest intervenes.

In August 2019, Brown pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with 10 years suspended.

ABC-16 reported:

The former pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to embezzlement, Madison County court officials said.

James Riley Brown is accused of stealing $332,000 from the church to pay his mortgage between February 2014 and August 2017. The Southern Baptist congregation in Madison is among the largest in the state.

Documents show Brown transferred church funds into his personal bank account, including one transaction of nearly $36,000.

Brown was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with 10 years suspended and five years to serve, court officials said. He was also sentenced to serve five years’ probation once he’s released.

Church members initially said they wouldn’t press charges, but the Madison County district attorney’s office carried out its own investigation.

Brown served as executive pastor of the church from 2014 to 2017, when an audit exposed the missing money.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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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