- by cnn
- 22 Feb 2024
A Baptist minister renowned in Louisiana has acknowledged stealing nearly $900,000 from his church, affiliated rental properties, his congregants and a charter school.
Charles Southall III, who for more than three decades led First Emanuel Baptist church in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of money-laundering.
According to court documents Southall endorsed, the minister embezzled donations from congregants that were meant to fund church charitable projects and building improvements.
He also took grant and loan funds awarded to to the Edgar P Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy, which he had created, and diverted them to a bank account controlled by him and a co-conspirator whose name was withheld from documents.
Southall further pocketed rental and sale payments derived from properties owned by his church.
Prosecutors said Southall would use the money to pay off his credit card bills and cover other personal expenses.
As part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in New Orleans, the 64-year-old agreed to repay $687,000 to First Emanuel, $85,000 to Spirit of Excellence and $110,000 to others who were victimized.
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