US authorities sentenced former head of the board of the Fifth Church of Christ of Los Angeles to more than 10 years in prison for stealing $ 11 million from church funds.
According to the investigation, Charles Thomas Sebesta, 56, had control over the church branch’s financial assets and operations, including some of its bank accounts. From August 2006 to December 2016, Sebesta transferred church funds to the bank accounts of fictitious companies and his personal accounts.
The payments were falsely recorded in church records as «donations» or environmental remediation payments to a fictitious «Sky Blue Environmental» company.
In total, Sebesta stole at least $11,438,213 of church assets.
– Having wrested operational and financial control over the church from its elderly members by 2006, [Sebesta] began a 10-year life in which he treated the church and its assets as his personal piggy bank, – prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
In February 2020, Sebesta pleaded guilty to fraud. He has been in custody since his arrest in August 2019.