Federal prosecutors say a Louisiana pastor could spend the next decade in prison after stealing more than $889,000.
Following a yearslong scheme in which he stole from congregants, the church’s rental properties, and a charter school, Charles Southall III, 64, pleaded guilty Tuesday, Oct. 18, to money laundering.
Court documents reveal that Southall used money meant for First Emanuel Baptist Church, where he served as executive pastor, to repay his credit cards. According to prosecutors, Southall bought a car with $95,000 of the stolen money and put more than $10,700 down on a second car also with stolen money.
The guilty plea comes about a month after Southall was charged in mid-September in a one-count bill of information. He faces up to 10 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. On Thursday, October 20, McClatchy News contacted Southall’s lawyer, who has not responded.
Prosecutors allege that the minister embezzled more than $116,000 from two members of churches he maintained in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
According to prosecutors, the funds were supposed to be used for repairs and charity work at First Emanuel Baptist, but instead were deposited in Southall’s account.
The church also accused Southall of stealing $150,000 in rental payments and profits from the sale of multiple properties.
“Southall improperly and without authorization diverted approximately $537,805.51 of profit from the sale of FEBC-owned real estate located on Amelia Street, Fourth Street, and Baronne Street to his personal benefit,” prosecutors wrote.
A charter school founded by Southall and payments to a consultant he hired were frequently diverted to his personal account between September 2013 and September 2017.
Southall will have to repay nearly $900,000 he’s accused of stealing as part of his plea deal. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 17, 2023.