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US pastor admits stealing £796,990 from his congregants and church

by Alex Collett
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A Baptist minister from the US state of Louisiana has admitted to stealing nearly $900,000 (£796,990) from his church, his congregants, affiliated rental properties and a charter school. 

Charles Southall III, from First Emanuel Baptist church in New Orleans and Baton Rouge pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of money-laundering. 

Mr Southall - according to court documents - embezzled donations from congregants that were meant to fund church charitable projects and building improvements.

Prosecutors said Southall would use the money he stole to pay off his credit card bills and cover other expenses of his own.

If found guilty at a hearing set for the 17th January, Mr Southall could receive up to ten years in prison.

However defendants who plead guilty without going to trial rarely receive the toughest punishment available. 

Mr Southall also took grant and loan funds - he had orginally created to be awarded to the Edgar P Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy - and diverted them to a bank account. 

There he was able to control the account and a co-conspirator. 

He also further stole rental and sale payments derived from properties that were owned by his church. 

From a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in New Orleans. Mr Southall agreed to repay $687,000 ( £611,471) to First Emanuel, $85,000 (£75,655) to Spirit of Excellence and $110,000 (97,906) to others who were victimised. 

According to the Guardian, Southall’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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