Another paragon of virtue:
An associate pastor of a Fort Smith [Arkansas] church has agreed to pay back money that he received from a church member to invest but allegedly pocketed and used for himself.
At a hearing Wednesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court, an attorney for Thomas James of Fayetteville, associate pastor at St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Smith, said James will pay $66,500 to church member Renee Lee.
The Arkansas Securities Department accused James of taking money from Lee to invest in securities but instead depositing it into an account that he drew on for shopping sprees for jewelry, clothes and electronics and trips to various cities across the country, as well as an ocean cruise. [emphasis added]
The Securities Department also said in the complaint that James presented himself as a certified financial planner, certified investment management analyst and chartered retirement planning counselor, although no evidence could be found that he holds any of those designations.
James is thought to have taken other congregants’ money in similar fashion, and may yet face criminal charges.
This sort of fraud by clergy members is not uncommon. For previous cases covered on Moral Compass, see