GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The pastor of Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church in Grand Rapids turned himself in to authorities Tuesday amid allegations that he took part in stealing more than $200,000 from the church.
Kent County prosecutors authorized an arrest warrant against Rev. Arthur Pearson Sr., 38, late last week. He was officially arraigned Tuesday afternoon on embezzling between $50,000 and $100,000 from the church.
24 Hour News 8 observed Pearson turning himself in at the Kent County jail just before 9:45 a.m. Tuesday. When 24 Hour News 8 approached Pearson and his wife at the jail they declined to comment.
Prosecutors say the charges may be upgraded as they believe there is more money missing than the amount stated in the current charge. They say they're also looking into whether the pastor acted alone.
"We're still investigating the possibility that others are involved," said Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth in a written statement to 24 Hour News 8. "It is believed that over 200k is missing."
A company hired by Pilgrim Rest to conduct a "forensic analysis" (pdf) on the case found what it called "questionable" expenditures to the church's bank accounts totaling $237,374,40, court records show.
A civil complaint filed against Pearson alleges that a large chunk of the church's stolen money was spent at mall stores including JCPenney and Victoria's Secret. Thousands more were spent on other personal expenses such as car-related fees and dental work.
The complaint alleges that Pearson's wife and the church's former bookkeeper were also involved in the stealing. 24 Hour News 8 contacted a phone number listed for the former bookkeeper but did not get an answer on the other end of the line. We also sent a written request for comment to the bookkeeper.
Pearson was released from jail on a personal recognizance bond on Tuesday afternoon. He is due back in court later this month.
Churches do not have to make their financial records public, so anyone concerned that their donation may have been misused cannot readily access that information. The best recourse for anyone with concerns may be to visit the church.
Forensic analysis of Pilgrim Rest -- http://woodtv.triton.net/news/pilgrimrestforensicanalysis.pdf
Firefighters are battling a fire at a condominium complex in Kalamazoo Township.
Thermotron Industries, a business that's been located in Holland for more than 40 years, was raided by the FBI Wednesday morning.
Jahleel Hoskins has pleaded guilty to several charges, including second-degree murder, in the death of his girlfriend, Latrice Maze.