Pastor steals $200,000 from his church, then begs congregation for forgiveness

A former associate pastor for a church in Houston is in hot water with the law for allegedly stealing from his congregation.

Russell Thompson Jr. was a former pastor with the City of Refuge Presbyterian Church. The sum the pastor is accused of stealing is shocking: A total of $200,000 was allegedly taken by the pastor over time.

According to prosecutors in Harris County, Thompson was indicted on March 13 and arrested shortly thereafter. He is currently being held on $30,000 bond. Officials claim that the man opened a bank account in the church’s name. When parishioners wrote checks to the church, he would deposit the money into the secret bank account and keep it for himself. Obviously, this is a no-no.

Prosecutors say that the man was stealing from his church members for two years, from 2011 through 2013. The pastor has reportedly asked his church for forgiveness and confessed to his financial sins.

Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story:

1) If you’re ever having financial problems, never fall for the temptation to embezzle. People get longer sentences for financial crimes than for serious crimes like murder.

2) Never assume a man of God can’t do things he shouldn’t do. There are not only quite a few snakes in the pulpit, but there are some people who are literally DRAWN into ministry because there is so much money involved.

3) Every organization should have checks and balances in place to avoid this kind of fraud, especially churches. Many black churches don’t have a proper managerial structure to ensure that fraud by one member of its leadership is eventually detected.

Here are some tips on how to protect your business (or church) from financial fraud. Some businesses are designed in such a way that they significantly increase the chances that there is fraud. Don’t make your organization one of them.

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