Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Church elder jailed for 4 years for embezzling $7.5 million in church funds

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A 64-year-old Cupertino man has been sentenced to four years in prison for embezzling more than $7.5 million in donations to his church, authorities announced Friday.

The sentence comes more than a year after a jury convicted Jonathan Chang on four counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering in connection with a decade-long scheme to defraud a wealthy donor of money intended to support the Home of Christ 4 Christian Church.

Chang, a church elder, raised money from the donor to purchase a new church and move the congregation from San Jose to Saratoga, this news organization previously reported. Some of the money was also earmarked for missionary work.

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The donor gave a one-time $2.25 million gift, a $3 million loan for the new church and $1.5 million in monthly donations. Chang funneled the funds to his own organizations and also embezzled more than $750,000 from church-related bank accounts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release announcing the sentencing.

Between 2004 and 2016, Chang received more than $7.5 million from the donor and the church. Authorities said he used the funds to purchase homes, luxury vehicles and 15 timeshares.

“With an average annual salary reported as $65,000, Chang purchased millions of dollars in real property, owned a Mercedes, and lived a luxurious life,” authorities said.

A federal grand jury indicted Chang and his wife, Grace Chang, 60, in February 2016, charging each with one count of conspiracy to commit wire or mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of money laundering. The jury did not reach a verdict on charges against Grace Chang. It also failed to come to a verdict on two counts of conspiracy against Jonathan Chang.

In sentencing Chang to prison, U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Davila said the scheme was an “enormous betrayal” of Chang’s church and community, authorities said.

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Davila also ordered Chang to pay more than $11.7 million in restitution to his victims as well as forfeit more than $8.8 million worth of interest from five properties he purchased.

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