Tag Archive: Embezzlement

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.

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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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Black Collar Crime: Pastor Cameron McDonald Faces Civil Suit Over Misused Donation

pastor cameron mcdonald

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.

Cameron McDonald, pastor of Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, stands accused of “embezzling $100,000 of a church contribution.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports:

A Lexington pastor under scrutiny since last fall is now accused of embezzling $100,000 of a church contribution, according to a civil lawsuit filed by two church members.

The new lawsuit from James Keogh and Chad Martin filed Friday in Fayette County Circuit Court provides more specific details about the source of the heated dispute at Southern Acres Christian Church than did an earlier lawsuit that was dismissed while the church members tried to work with pastor Cameron McDonald.

Keogh and Martin accuse McDonald of embezzlement, unlawful conversion of funds and unjust enrichment in the civil complaint. An attorney representing McDonald earlier said no money had been misused and denied all allegations. Attempts to reach attorney Austin Wilkerson Tuesday were not immediately successful.

Keogh gave $170,000 to the church on Dec. 19, 2016, at McDonald’s urging and $100,000 was diverted to McDonald or his wife to help pay the mortgage on the couple’s $530,000 Jessamine County house purchased about five months earlier, according to the lawsuit. Keogh had specified the money was supposed to be used to pay off the church’s mortgage

“McDonald intentionally treated Keogh’s $100,000 as his own and diverted it to his own personal use, to the detriment of Keogh and the others, by failing to make the specified payment of mortgage debt he promised to make,” the complaint states.

According to the complaint, Keogh made a written demand for the return of the money, but McDonald did not comply or respond. McDonald was given a Feb. 15 deadline.

The court complaint states that Keogh is entitled to the return of the $100,000 because McDonald did not use it in the manner promised and agreed. The church mortgage of $144,000 was not paid off and the church was subsequently in debt due to the misuse of the money, according to court files and a police case report filed in November.

In addition to diverting the money, McDonald insisted his pastor compensation should be increased in the months that followed the purchase of the Jessamine County home and its 96 acres of land , the new lawsuit claims.

Last year, McDonald also insisted the church add his wife to the payroll, giving them a combined income of more than $100,000, the lawsuit states.

McDonald arranged last year for the removal of several of the church’s governing board of elders and appointed his wife and friend, pastor Tim Jones, to the new 3-person board that included himself, court documents show.

The complaint also alleges that McDonald fired the church’s officer manager to prevent her from being able to provide information about the church’s finances to law enforcement. No staff members other than McDonald and his wife are listed any longer on the church’s website.

Prior to the November lawsuit being dismissed, church attorney Wilkerson denied all allegations made against McDonald and the church and said all actions were taken in accordance with the Bible.

As tensions escalated, McDonald repeatedly barred some members from church. An off-duty Lexington police officer blocked some from entering the church during worship services.

Earlier this month, the church’s members voted 173-0 for a resolution removing McDonald as pastor and electing a new board of elders. In fact, the church members had to vote at a nearby park because they weren’t given access to church property; the church was locked during service that Sunday. Wilkerson, at the time, called the resolution illegal and contentious.

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Black Collar Crime: Church Chief Financial Officer Nikki Shelton Accused of Stealing $78,000

theft cartoon

Nikki Shelton, the chief financial officer of Bethlehem First United Methodist Church in Bethlehem, Georgia, stand accused of embezzling $78,000 from the church.

Fox-5 reports:

A Loganville woman was arrested in Barrow County for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars from her church in Bethlehem.

The Barrow County Sheriff’s Office said 28-year-old Nikki Shelton was writing checks to herself from various accounts of the Bethlehem First United Methodist Church.

Church members were emotionally broadsided to learn Shelton, the church’s Chief Financial Officer, had been arrested for allegedly stealing approximately $80,000 from the church.

“Well, I’m concerned, anyone would be. It’s a lot of money,” said church member Bonnie Deal.

Deal and others headed to choir practice Wednesday night were surprised and disheartened to learn of the arrest of Shelton.

Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith said church leaders contacted him about a week and a half ago after finding financial discrepancies.

“What we have confirmed is she was simply writing checks to herself out of the accounts,” said Sheriff Smith.

The sheriff said his investigation revealed Shelton had been writing checks to herself for about 13 months.

“Easily. You do a thousand dollars at a time you could do it at $78,000 if that’s the case,” said Sheriff Smith.

The sheriff said Shelton is facing 78 counts of theft by taking, one count for each check written.

Most church members were reluctant to speak. Others in Bethlehem, which has its Prayer Mile and Christmas themed streets, wondered about the loss of trust.

“It’s sad you can’t trust somebody in charge of a church,” said Alan Heath who works at the Big H store near the church.

“They probably all know her and they’re gonna probably look at her and say wow I can’t believe this I can’t believe this,” said Betlehem resident Lawrence Moon.

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Black Collar Crime: Pastor Christopher Stansell Accused of Embezzlement

christopher stansell

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.

Christopher Stansell, pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Princeton, West Virginia, stands accused of embezzling more than $10,000 from the church.

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports:

A former pastor of First Christian Church in Princeton has been arrested on embezzlement charges.

Christopher L. Stansell, 48, was arrested July 27 for embezzling more than $10,000 in church funds, Sgt. M.S. Haynes, with the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment, said.

Haynes said the incidents occurred over period of a year and a half while Stansell was employed as pastor of the church.

“During the investigation it was found that multiple checks written to and by the First Christian Church were embezzled and deposited into accounts held by Christopher Stansell,” Haynes said.

Stansell was arraigned and released on bond pending future hearings.

Update

WVVA reports that Stansell pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest Jonathan Wehrle Charged With Embezzlement

jonathan wehrle

On Monday, Jonathan Wehrle, founding pastor of St. Martha Parish in Okemos, Michigan, was charged with embezzlement.

The Lansing State Journal reports:

An Okemos priest arrested Saturday on the 39th anniversary of his ordination was charged Monday afternoon with embezzlement from his church.

The Rev. Jonathan Wayne Wehrle, 66, was arrested Saturday at his home in Williamston. He was charged Monday with embezzlement of $100,000 or more in 55th District Court in Mason.

He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Magistrate Mark Blumer set bond at $5,000.

“I’ve known Father for almost 30 years, he’s not a thief and he is not an embezzler,” said Wehrle’s attorney, Lawrence Nolan. “This is a guy who dedicated his life to the Catholic Church.”

The Catholic Diocese of Lansing announced last week that Wehrle, the founding pastor of St. Martha Parish in Okemos, was placed on administrative leave May 9 during an investigation into “possible significant embezzlement” at the church.

A statement from the diocese said the possible embezzlement was uncovered by independent auditors and referred to police.

Detective First Lt. Thomas DeClercq, commander of the Michigan State Police 1st District special investigations section, said his unit has worked closely with the diocese to expedite imaging of computers so as not to interfere with school or administrative functions of the church.

DeClercq said the investigation into embezzlement at the church is ongoing and additional charges are anticipated.

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Today, The Lansing Journal reports that Jonathan Wehrle used $1.85 million to purchase and renovate his home. Beth LeBlanc writes:

Auditors believe an Okemos priest charged with embezzlement Monday spent about $1.85 million in parish funds on his home.

Check stubs and invoices indicate funds from St. Martha Parish in Okemos were spent on work and materials at Wehrle’s Noble Road home, according to testimony at a court hearing Monday.

The 10-acre Williamston property, according to county assessing records, includes an 11,345-square-foot home with a cash value of $1.48 million. The property also has three barns ranging from 1,792 to 2,304 square feet with a combined cash value of about $148,000.

Taxes on the property in 2016 were $25,106, according to county records.

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