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Tag: Embezzlement

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Mark Milatz Accused of Embezzling More Than $250,000 From Church

pastor mark milatz

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.

Mark Milatz, former pastor of Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church in Brighton, Michigan — a Missouri Synod congregation — stands accused of embezzling over $250,000 from the church. Blaming anxiety and depression that led to alcohol abuse, Milatz reportedly plans to plead guilty and is willing to repay the money he stole from Shepherd of the Lakes.

WHMI reports:

Mark Milatz had been the Senior Pastor at the Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church in Brighton since 2010. In December of 2018, Milatz tendered his immediate resignation from both the church and from Ordained Ministers of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

Earlier this month, the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office authorized a charge of embezzlement of $50,000 or more against Milatz. He’ll be arraigned February 4th.

The felony complaint states the alleged embezzlement began on or about January 1st of 2011.

An investigation by Michigan State Police revealed that Milatz transferred money between his personal bank accounts and church accounts. He’s accused of embezzling more than $250,000 from 2011 to 2018, but he can’t be charged for some earlier alleged thefts as Michigan’s Statute of Limitations is six years for embezzlement.

After Milatz resigned, he moved to Wisconsin. He reportedly expressed a desire to pay the church back and settle out of court but the church proceeded with the criminal investigation. The improprieties came to light after the church’s bookkeeper began noting unusual charges every month and became suspicious.

Milatz is accused of using church credit cards for personal use, submitting fake receipts and issuing reimbursements checks to himself, and taking money from a fundraiser for a parishioner involved in a vehicle crash.

Milatz issued an apology statement acknowledging his wrongdoing and that he betrayed his calling. Milatz said he struggled with anxiety and depression that led to alcohol abuse and other toxic behaviors. A report states he intends to plead guilty and is willing to repay the funds.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Douglas Hammond Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $285,000

pastor douglas hammond

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.

Douglas Hammond, pastor of Olivet Assembly of God Church in Olivet, Michigan, pleaded guilty in November 2021 to embezzling $285,000 from his church.

The Lansing State Journal reports:

An Olivet pastor has pleaded guilty to embezzling $285,000 from his church, according to prosecutors. 

Douglas Hammond pleaded guilty as charged Friday to one count of embezzlement over $100,000, said Eaton County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chris Anderson. 

Hammond stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from Olivet Assembly of God Church when he was a pastor there, according to court records. The embezzlement is believed to have taken place over nearly six years, from January 2014 through November 2019, Anderson said in an email.

Hammond’s attorney, David Carter, said Hammond is not likely to be able to pay back the restitution he will owe because he is living at poverty level at the moment. 

Hammond was scheduled to go to trial earlier this year, but it was canceled and he instead pleaded guilty two months later. Carter said this is because Hammond “wanted to do what was right.” 

Carter declined to comment on why Hammond stole money from the church or what he did with the money. He said he did not have Hammond’s permission to speak about that. Carter did say, however, there were “a lot of special circumstances” with the case.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Ransom McLamb, Jr. and His Ex-Wife Accused of Embezzling $136,000 from Church

all about the money

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.

Pastor Ransom Wade McLamb, Jr. and his ex-wife, Wendi Wishnefsky McLamb, stand accused of embezzling $136,000 from Sabbath Home Baptist Church in Supply, North Carolina. The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

WECT-6 reports:

Arrest warrants for Ransom Wade McLamb, Jr. and his ex-wife, Wendi Wishnefsky McLamb, were issued Wednesday. Wendi was served the same day the warrant was issued and made her first appearance in Brunswick County Court on Thursday. Wade was served in New Hanover County on Thursday and released on a $100,000 unsecured bond.

Wade worked as the pastor of Sabbath Home Baptist Church in Supply. According to search warrants, the embezzlement occurred over a period of years from 2014-2020. Church members filed a formal complaint with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office on March 8, 2021. The following day, detectives met with several congregation members to get more information about the suspected embezzlement.

“Church members report in August 2020, the pastor, Ransom Wade McLamb, Jr. abruptly resigned without reason. When Ransom resigned, Chris Cocker (Ransom’s son-in-law) was named interim pastor. In 2014, Wendi Wishnefsky McLamb assumed the secretary and treasurer responsibilities of Sabbath Home Baptist Church until she left the church in November 2020. When Wendi left the church, church members were left with little documentation showing where church funds were spent throughout the years,” the search warrant application reads.

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“When church members logged onto the church computer, they discovered all but three (3) files were deleted, a recovery program was purchased and installed in attempt to recover church files by church members. Church members began reviewing files and obtaining financial records from their banking institution (Branch Banking and Trust ‘BB&T’). Church members discovered Wendi had closed the three BB&T accounts without authorization and opened one (1) account at First Bank of Shallotte,” the application continues.

In reviewing the records, detectives say that church members learned the McLambs “reimbursed themselves for expenses without documentation or authorization.” Over the years, those reimbursements totaled more than $136,000.

“The McLambs paid personal bills with church funds (home schooling, traveling, insurance and credit cards)… without the church members knowledge,” the application continues. It also notes that Ransom McLamb was believed to have had a procedure completed in 2018 at New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) using church funds.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Church Treasurer Taisha Smith-DeJoseph Accused of Embezzling Over $500,000

taisha smith dejoseph

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.

Taisha Smith-DeJoseph, treasurer for St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Florence, New Jersey, stands accused of embezzling over $500,000 from the church.

CNN reports:

Taisha D. Smith-DeJoseph, 43, was responsible for overseeing the church’s finances and opened electronic bank accounts for St. Paul Baptist Church and used the money for personal expenses, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

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Over the course of five years, ending in March 2019, Smith-DeJoseph allegedly used the stolen money to pay her car loans, rent, credit card expenses, cable bill, cell phone bills, and to make hundreds of online purchases and pay for her wedding venue, a police investigation determined.

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The church’s board of trustees suspected a theft around June 2019 and approached authorities with their suspicions, which prompted an investigation, Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, told CNN.

Smith-DeJoseph allegedly made purchases totaling $266,595.65 through PayPal, according to Bewley, and purchases of $22,812.69 on Amazon.
“People put their hard-earned money in the church and really expected for it to be taken care of,” the Rev. Fred Jackson told CNN affiliate KYW. “It’s very hurtful for the entire congregation and we’ve been going through it for several months now, and what else can I say? It was devastating.”

Smith-DeJoseph also allegedly issued payroll and supply reimbursement checks to herself from the church’s bank accounts and fabricated monthly statements to hide the church’s true financial state, according to a probable cause statement from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s office.

The woman was charged with multiple crimes including theft by deception, computer criminal activity and failure to pay income tax.
A man who said he is Smith-DeJoseph’s brother told CNN affiliate KYW that he wasn’t aware of the allegations. “I know my sister and she would never do no (expletive) like that,” he said. The man was not named.

The Burlington County Prosecutor’s office said in an attempt to hide the scheme, Smith-DeJoseph didn’t file income tax returns for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. In 2017, she allegedly filed a fraudulent tax return.

I wish people would stop saying that they know so-and-so so well that they KNOW the accused person could never do such a thing. None of us know someone so well that we can speak infallibly about his behavior. I highly doubt that my wife is a serial killer. Can I know for certain that Polly is not a serial killer? 🙂 Of course not.  All any of us can do is trust people, and sometimes the people we trust the most do unspeakable things. One need only read the stories in the Black Collar Crime Series to see that supposedly “good” people do awful things.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Keith Collins and His Wife Accused of Theft

pastor keith collins
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.

Keith Collins, pastor of Church of the Overcomer in Trainer, Pennsylvania, and his wife Carolyn stand accused of embezzling over $1,000,000 from elderly, incapacitated adults.

The Delco Times reports:

A former Democratic candidate for Delaware County Council, his wife and her sister were charged Monday in a scheme to embezzle more than $1 million from approximately 112 elderly victims through court-appointed guardianships.

Pastors Keith and Carolyn Collins, of the Church of the Overcomer in Trainer, and Gloria F. Byars, sister of Carolyn Collins, turned themselves in Monday morning on charges including theft, conspiracy, receiving stolen property and failure to make required dispensation of funds.

“Gloria Byars, Keith Collins and Carolyn Collins were entrusted to care for our most vulnerable elderly citizens,” said Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland at a press conference announcing the charges. “Instead of simply doing their jobs, they cruelly embezzled over $1 million from over 100 incapacitated individuals, people who could not make decisions for themselves.”

The total amount of fraud alleged comes to $1,009,172 and involves 108 victims in Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks, Berks, Montgomery and Lancaster counties. Copeland indicated another four victims from Philadelphia would also be included in those roles. All of the victims are over the age of 60 and many are in their 80s and 90s, she said.

“The impact of Byars’ and the Collins’ actions were far reaching, depleting significant amounts of monies from their wards from six different counties,” Copeland said. “To add insult to injury, Keith and Carolyn Collins, as pastors, used their church to help funnel the stolen money, betraying not only their duties as court appointed guardians but their duties as ministers of God.”

Copeland said the defendants used the ill-gotten gains on personal expenses including luxury cars, high-end clothing and accessories from Louis Viton, Jimmy Choo and Coach, airline trips and Hilton Hotel stays worth thousands of dollars, and a time share.

….

Byars and Carolyn Collins had no comment Monday, but Keith Collins, a longtime staple of the church community and unsuccessful Democratic candidate in the 2011 county council race, denied the allegations.

“I’m a pastor and if there were donations made, people are allowed to make donations to the church,” he told reporters outside the county courthouse in Media.

When confronted with accusations of theft, Collins indicated he did not know what the specific allegations were, but that taking care of people was his “life’s work” and that he works with people that no one else wants to work with.

“You’re welcome to come to the church and find out about us,” he later said while being led out of district court in handcuffs to a waiting law enforcement vehicle.

 

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Kenneth Hogue Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

theft cartoon

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.

Kenneth Hogue, a longtime United Pentecostal Church pastor and an official with the sect’s regional district office, pleaded guilty last week to embezzling more than $250,000 from the church.

The Missoulian reports:

Kenneth Hogue was charged in U.S. District Court this week with federal wire fraud for siphoning $288,757.94 from the Rocky Mountain District of the United Pentecostal Church from June 2012 until July 18, 2016.

The court filings charging Hogue were accompanied by a plea agreement setting out the terms for his guilty plea. Hogue has agreed to pay the embezzled amount back but nothing more, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Racicot said during the Thursday hearing that the Rocky Mountain District of the Pentecostal church may seek additional restitution.

During the embezzlement scheme — which began in 2012, the same year Hogue was elected to the district’s treasurer post — Hogue’s duties included depositing church offerings into the district’s account and writing checks for church expenses. He was also authorized to pay himself for his services as an official of the district, with the main office located in Wyoming.
“I was authorized to write some checks to myself for insurance and a stipend for my service,” he told U.S. Magistrate Kathleen DeSoto on Thursday. “I wrote checks in addition to that.”

In addition to writing unauthorized checks, Hogue also described using the district’s debit card to withdraw church funds from an ATM.

Racicot said during the hearing that Hogue had also opened a new bank account in the name of the Pentecostal church, without permission, and transferred church funds to that account.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist CFO Roy McClendon-Thompson Accused of Embezzlement and Murder

roy mcclendon thompson

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.

Roy McClendon-Thompson,  the chief financial officer for Tabernacle Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, was arrested weeks ago and charged with embezzling over $100,000 from the church. McClendon-Thompson was released on a $15,000 bond. On April 8, McClendon-Thompson shot and killed his alleged lover, 45-year-old James Curtis Jones. Later that same day, with police in hot pursuit, McClendon-Thompson crashed into a dump truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Black Collar Crime: Lutheran Pastor Bryan Engfer Accused of Theft

pastor bryan engfer

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.

Bryan Engfer, former pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, stands accused of embezzling more than $13,000 from the church’s “Pastor’s Discretionary Fund.”  According to WISC-3, Engfer used the pilfered funds to purchase a car and to pay for a country club membership. The money was supposed to used for helping people in need. Evidently, Engfer was “needy.”

Engfer faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest Jonathan Wehrle Accused of Embezzling Millions From Church

jonathan wehrle

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.

Jonathan Wehrle, pastor of St. Martha Church in Okemos, Michigan, stands accused of embezzling more than $5 million from his church, using the money to lavishly improve his properties. Evidently, taking a vow of poverty meant something different to Wehrle than it did other Catholic priests. I previously wrote about Wehrle’s crimes in May, 2017.

The Lansing State Journal reports:

A Catholic priest accused of embezzling more than $5 million from his central Michigan church spent about $100,000 on an indoor swimming pool and stained glass windows for his six-bedroom, 12-bathroom home, according to a lawsuit seeking to recoup some of the money.

In addition to the $45,000 indoor pool and nearly $55,000 in stained glass windows, the Rev. Jonathan Wehrle spent more than $134,000 on landscaping at his 10-acre (4-hectare) estate in Williamston and other properties, according to the lawsuit filed by Princeton Excess and Surplus Lines Insurance Corporation, which insures the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.

Wehrle faces six counts of embezzling $100,000 or more from St. Martha Church in Okemos, which is just east of Lansing and about 70 miles west of Detroit. Prosecutors allege that Wehrle spent the money on himself, including to build and maintain the estate.

The home, which has 10 fireplaces and three barns, was appraised at $1.28 million in 2012, when construction was only halfway complete, according to court records.

Police said bills for work on the property matched checks written from St. Martha.

Wehrle’s defense attorney, Lawrence Nolan, said the pastor had family money and an agreement with a bishop, now deceased, to use parish funds for a private residence.

Assistant prosecutor Andrew Stevens has said that Wehrle, who founded St. Martha in 1988, had “maintained pretty autonomous control” for nearly 30 years.

Princeton Excess also sued Wehrle this month after learning he wasn’t paying property taxes and that his homeowner’s insurance had lapsed, according to attorney Randy Marmor.

Wehrle’s estate was placed into receivership after a judge approved the insurer’s request Wednesday, the Lansing State Journal reported . The insurer said it’s paid out about $2.5 million to the diocese so far and wants to protect assets to cover those losses.

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Bruce Gerencser