A Tampa pastor turned himself in last week. Â His crime: Â stealing the identity of one of his elders and racking up $20,000+ in credit card bills.
The pastor had used the elder’s personal information to open the credit card in January of 2009. Â He had been relieved of his duties last year, leaving the church in a state of turmoil… so much so, that the church had to change it’s name. Â He also allegedly used $3,400 in church funds to try to pay down the fraudulent account.
The pastor in question had been the senior pastor there for 8 years. Â The pastor is just 40 years old.
A couple of key learnings here that should be common knowledge:
1. Â Don’t let the pastor anywhere near the money. Â Anywhere. near. the money. Â That’s just a proper safeguard that will keep even the most honest person away from any accusation.
2. Â Something had to have broken down in this pastor’s life long before he opened up the credit card account, and then used church money to try to pay it off. Â My question: Â what kind of accountability should have been in place (besides #1) that could have identified problems before they got to this point.
NOTE: Â Accountability is key… but people can blow off their accountability partner pretty easily in some cases. Â We all know that. Â But wouldn’t something this severe have had some pretty nasty red flags?
The church’s response? Â No files charged. Â That’s probably the right decision. Â This pastor will probably pay a good price on the identity theft charge (even though the elder said that he didn’t want to have to go to authorities, but had to, or else he’d be responsible for the $20k of charges and late fees.
What other things can we all learn from a situation like this?
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