In Houston, a First Baptist Church minister was indicted for embezzling somewhere between $800,000 and $900,000 from the parishioners of his church. It took him about six years to do so, from 2011 to 2017. Obviously, he was also given a salary and benefits by the unsuspecting congregation. Fleecing the Flock: Pastor Steals $800,000 from Church.
How did he spend the money? He wasted it on lavish vacations for him and his family, groceries and household expenses, and ridiculously (given all of his unethical behavior) to fund his doctorate in divinity from Lancaster Bible College.
How do you steal so much money? It wasn’t overly sophisticated. For the most part, the newly minted doctor of divinity forged authorizations for payment. The pastor has recently led away in handcuffs and has his bond set at $50,000.
Discovered and Quit
The board members of the church began to notice a pattern of unethical financial linked to Pastor Altic in the late months of 2017. They had no choice but to confront him, and his response was immediate: he walked away.
Given what they discovered, and the pastor’s response, the board turned their evidence over to the police. What the staff, church financial committee persons, other pastors and accountants discovered was rather horrifying.
The pastor acted alone and used what were called “difficult to detect” methods to steal the funds. This usually implies forgery, over-payments, stolen donations, and fake accounts. At this time the committees and law enforcement are still exploring the techniques that he used.
If there is any silver lining it is that the First Baptist Church was insured for a good part of the loss, $500,000 of the total amount.
The church has approved taking contingency funds to fund the missing $300,000.
As part of a long explanation to its members, the church’s leaders have stated:
“We have already enacted additional policies to help ensure all donations and expenses are protected and handled properly moving forward. The outside expertise we sought helped us not only to determine the extent of this serious violation of trust but also provided recommendations on how our financial controls might be improved or strengthened.”
All Well and Good
Despite the fact that Pastor Altic, a tall, young, good looking man, appealed to the members of the Houston megachurch with his “godly ways,” and his smooth talk, he was a fraudster and crook of the highest order.
It would certainly appear as though he spent more time scheming ways to steal money than in his studies or sincerity in helping others.
Given the statement of the church, it would appear that the pastor, presumably a powerful “Man of God” in church circles was pretty much given an open door and a license to take what was not his. The statement talked of a “violation of trust,” but words such as trust are meaningless to a scam artist, albeit a pastor, who only sees a golden opportunity to steal from the flock. There was obviously little or no oversight and Jerrell G. Altic, who was only 40 at the time of his arrest, had no compunction in taking what was not his.
Why would Altic steal this money? What were the choices that led up to his consequences? Let’s not forget he started to steal when he was 33 or 34 years of age. I don’t like to use words like entitlement very often, especially a millennial entitlement, but this might be a rare case where the need to steal, to elevate himself by surrounding himself with privilege and status was stronger than any values he learned in his bible college.
There should be no naivete here. The fact that Jerrell Altic had the credentials of a pastor is irrelevant. Had his career taken a different path, anything from automotive mechanics to the dermatologist, he would have most probably had the same set of unethical needs.
For somewhere in his thinking, Altic rationalized that the money was his to steal and that the parishioners were there for the fleecing, i.e., that they were suckers. He felt above them and any pretense at humility was in fact, just a pretense.
Jerrell Altic was most probably heading in this direction for many years indeed, many years before his ordination. From an ethics point of view, it may have been hard or impossible to reach this man’s soul, no matter how smoothly he talked. However, the people responsible for financial safeguards could have done something much sooner if they had not confused their ethical responsibilities with “hero worship” or face value acceptance. Fleecing the Flock: Pastor Steals $800,000 from Church.