Pastor Admits To Defrauding Church, School Of $900,000

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A Baptist pastor in New Orleans has admitted to stealing almost $900,000 from his church, its parishioners, and a charter school, the Associated Press reports.

On Tuesday (October 18), Reverend Charles Southall III, 64, of First Emanuel Baptist Church in New Orleans and Baton Rouge pleaded guilty to money laundering during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey.

According to prosecutors, Southall, a well-known pastor of 30 years, solicited and stole donations from church members. In one instance, the pastor diverted a congregant's $10,000 tithe for his own use, per the Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.

Over four years, Southall also solicited donations from his parishioners under the guise that the funds would be used for charity and church building improvements, but instead directed $106,408 of the money raised to his own accounts, the newspaper said.

More, Southhall started a New Orleans charter school, Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy, and an affiliated school in Baton Rouge

Despite Spirit of Excellence receiving funds from grants and loans, the Baton Rouge location never opened while $221,000 was diverted to a bank account controlled by Southall and an unidentified co-conspirator, prosecutors said.

Southall also stole $150,000 of rental payments from the church's properties. He sold properties owned by the church and pocketed more than $500,000, according to prosecutors.

As part of his plea agreement, Southall has been ordered to pay $ $687,000 to First Emanuel Baptist Church, about $85,000 to the Spirit of Excellence Academy, and more than $110,000 to individual victims of his schemes, per AP News.

Southall is set to be sentenced on January 17 and faces up to 10 years in prison for money laundering.

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