Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Louisiana pastor pleads guilty to bilking parishioners out of nearly $900K

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A longtime Louisiana pastor is facing as many as 10 years behind bars after pleading guilty Tuesday to a single count of money laundering in New Orleans’ federal court.

Charles Southall III, executive pastor of the First Emanuel Baptist Church in Central City and Baton Rouge for 33 years, is slated for sentencing on Jan. 17, 2023, WVUE reported.

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According to the TV station, Southall, 64, was charged in September after an FBI investigation determined he had “illegally siphoned nearly $900,000 from church-owned real estate assets, donations and congregants’ tithes for his personal use.”

As per NOLA.com: “In one instance, Southall extracted a $10,000 tithe from a parishioner in 2019, then diverted the money to his own use. In another, he solicited donations from a parishioner over the course of four years for charity and church building improvements but converted $106,408 of the donations to his own accounts and spending.”

The church also owned multiple rental properties from which Southall diverted an estimated $150,000 of rental payments to his personal accounts. He also pocketed more than $500,000 from the sale of properties owned by the church, the news outlet reported.

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In addition, federal prosecutors alleged that Southall diverted nearly $221,000 between 2013 and 2017 from the Spirit of Excellence Academy to a joint bank account he shared with a co-conspirator referred to in court documents as “Person A.” Although the now-defunct charter school’s New Orleans campus in the Central City community was funded by grants and loans, an affiliated Baton Rouge campus that never opened was used to siphon the funds, WVUE reported.

“In total, Southall obtained approximately $889,565.86 through his fraudulent schemes,” the office of U.S. Attorney Duane Evans said in a prepared statement.

According to NOLA.com, Southall will repay more than $687,000 to First Emanuel Baptist Church, some $85,000 to the Spirit of Excellence Academy and more than $110,000 to individual victims of his schemes.

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