Former Birch Run church leader charged with embezzling more than $100k from congregation

| September 20, 2010

SAGINAW — The former congregation president at Christ Lutheran Church in Birch Run is headed to trial on charges that he embezzled more than $100,000 from the church.

Another church leader testified this week that 64-year-old Robert G. Mathis told him by telephone he “got in deep” and “was trying to get his son out of trouble.”

“He apologized, then he hung up,” said Matthew Welch, former vice president of the congregation.

Saginaw County District Judge Terry L. Clark on Monday ordered Mathis bound over to circuit court on six felony charges. He remained jailed Wednesday on a $250,000 cash-only bond.

Mathis, who served as congregation president for at least 12 years before moving to Houston in September, is charged with conducting a continuing criminal enterprise, embezzling more than $100,000, third-degree money laundering and three counts of forgery.

The criminal enterprise and embezzlement charges both carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison.

Welch testified that in August of last year, a couple who loaned money to Mathis told him they were concerned about the church’s finances because, among other reasons, the church had an outstanding bill it owed to Gordon Food Services.

When Welch asked Mathis about the bill, the president told Welch he had paid it with a cashier’s check, Welch testified. Welch said that the use of a cashier’s check “threw up a red flag,” and he asked Mathis why he used that instead of a check from the church’s National City checking account.

“He said that’s the way it always was done,” Welch testified.

Mathis told Welch he’d provide a copy of the check, Welch testified. When Welch went to the church that evening to look for the copy, it wasn’t there, nor was it there when he returned later that night after speaking to Mathis, Welch testified.

Welch called Mathis again about the copy, and Mathis told him, “I misappropriated funds from the church,” Welch testified.

Welch asked how much was gone, he said.

“All of it,” Mathis said, according to Welch.

Welch asked about the church’s three investment accounts, created when the church sold about $385,000 worth of real estate in 2005 or 2006, Welch testified.

“It’s all gone,” Mathis said, according to Welch.

It’s not clear whether Mathis already had moved to Houston at that point. Judge Clark asked Mathis’ Flint attorney, Arthur Busch, if that was the case, but Busch was not able to provide an answer.

Welch said he contacted Robert Schian, a commercial banker and member of the church. Schian, now the congregation president, voluntary audited the church’s accounts, Welch testified.

Both Schian and Welch testified that the amount of money that Mathis took exceeded $100,000.

State Police Trooper Larry Verga testified that Mathis was able to withdraw funds from the various accounts by writing checks and affidavits of loss and cashing them using his and the signature of Margaret Schian, the congregation treasurer and Robert Schian’s sister-in-law.

Margaret Schian testified that the signatures on the affidavits were hers but the signatures on the checks were not. Verga testified that Mathis “taped and pasted” copies of Schian’s legitimate signature onto the affidavits and forged the signature on the checks.

The three forgery charges that Mathis faces are in relation to one affidavit of loss for $15,000 drawn on the church’s account in the Church Extension Fund, created by The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and two checks totaling $64,472.13 made out to the church, Mathis, and Margaret Schian and endorsed by Mathis and Schian.

Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Patrick Duggan, in arguing for a bind over to Circuit Court for trial, said Mathis committed money laundering by converting the cash he received from the church accounts into money orders.

Busch argued that because the money in the checks and affidavit ultimately was transferred from one church account to another, there was “no intent to defraud.” He also argued that there was no evidence that the money grams that Mathis purchased in Genesee County were purchased with church funds.

Circuit Court officials had yet to set an arraignment date for Mathis.

 

http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2010/09/former_birch_run_church_leader.html

SOURCE and Read More:

  • http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2010/09/former_birch_run_church_leader.html

If the link is dead or no longer live please email us at [email protected] for assistance.

Tags: , ,

Category: Church Security

Comments are closed.