GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Prosecutors have authorized another warrant in an alleged embezzlement scheme that church leaders say may have cost Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church more than $230,000 over the course of three years.
The Kent County Prosecutor's Office has authorized a warrant against the church's former bookkeeper Gerolanita Bailey, 24 Hour News 8 has learned. She is expected to turn herself into authorities in the coming days.
While conducting a "forensic analysis" (pdf) of the church's accounts, a firm hired by the church reported that $10,355 was paid directly to Bailey.
The analysis also noted that six "debit memos (withdrawals) totaling $26,020... were initiated by Ms. Bailey while at a bank branch."
The analyst went on to say that "no matching deposit transaction into a Pilgrim bank account was identified for these transactions."
Bailey no longer works for the church.
Earlier this year, the church's pastor Arthur Pearson, Sr. was charged with a felony alleging that he embezzled between $50,000 and $100,000 from the church. At that time, prosecutors said that the charge may be modified if evidence was uncovered that showed he took more than that amount.
Pearson turned himself into jail before the arraignment took place and was released after the court proceeding on a personal recognizance bond, meaning he did not have to put up any cash for his release.
Pearson supporters gathered at the court during several court hearings, including the one where a judge determined that he should go to trial on the embezzlement charges against him.
The trial for Pearson is slated to begin next week.
A defense attorney retained by Pearson has argued that the pastor did nothing illegal and cited a lack of formal policy governing what the pastor could spend.
Pearson was suspended from the church. A restraining order bars him from being on church property. In February, church leaders decided to stop services after a number of disagreements on the issue caused police to be called to the church several times.
The issue has divided church members as many of them support Pearson and do not want the case going through the court system. Others say they want those responsible for the missing money to pay for their actions.
A civil filing suing Pearson for the missing funds also alleges that Pearson's wife Gwendolyn took part in the "questionable" spending, though she has not yet had criminal action taken against her.
The Pearsons declined to comment on the matter. When questioned by 24 Hour News 8 while Pearson was turning himself into the jail, the couple was silent.
No one answered a call to a phone number listed for Bailey and she has not responded to written requests for comment.
GRAM Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in front of a festive downtown crowd at Rosa Parks Circle Friday night.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.
Investigators in Montcalm County are working to determine what led up to a deadly crash.