Monday, August 16, 2010

Ohio Former Pastor Pleads GUILTY to Stealing From Church!

Link to original article-Former pastor pleads guilty to stealing from church

Former Greenfield pastor James Blaine may face up to 6 years in prison and $250,000 in restitution payments after he pleaded guilty to embezzling thousands from his church.

Blaine, 61, was indicted on 17 counts related to allegations that he stole more than $100,000 from the Good Shepherd Church near Greenfield.

He pleaded guilty Wednesday in Highland County Common Pleas Court to two counts: one count of forgery, a fifth-degree felony, and one count of aggravated theft, a third-degree felony.

The maximum sentence for the first count is 12 months and the maximum sentence for the second count is 5 years.

The state dropped the remaining 15 counts and recommended a prison sentence of three years and eight months. The state also said they would not oppose judicial release.

"The church had a board meeting Monday, and they called and said, 'Go ahead and try to work it out,'" Highland County Prosecutor Jim Grandey said Wednesday. "We are pleased with the result of this case. (Blaine) had to say, 'Yes, I stole from the church.' He never wanted to admit that, and it was important for us to get that out of his mouth that he's guilty. I think that's important for the church."

Grandey said that restitution payments will be ordered following an upcoming restitution hearing. He estimated the state would recommend Blaine be ordered to pay between $200,000 and $250,000 in restitution.

Blaine's indictment was the result of a seven-month investigation by Highland County Sheriff's Office detectives into allegations that Blaine stole money from the church by forging names and documents that were then submitted to financial institutions, where Blaine obtained money in the name of the church for his personal use, Highland County Sheriff Ron Ward said.

The sheriff said the alleged incidents took place from 2004 to 2009.

Ward told The Times-Gazette he was glad that a case involving a "long and complex investigation" had come to a close.

"This investigation took a long time to complete. There was a voluminous amount of documents to go through. It was a very long and complex investigation," he said. "We are satisfied the case came to a resolution with the count of theft and the count of forgery... it's not over. We'll put our trust in the judge to order the appropriate sentence for Mr. Blaine."

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