Pastor pleads not guilty to church theft

| March 10, 2010

A pastor accused of stealing money from his church sat in Fond du Lac County Court on Tuesday with his head down, occasionally thumbing through a criminal complaint and other papers.

The Rev. Stuart Zak waited through a slew of initial appearances before a $500 signature bond was set in his case involving two counts of misdemeanor theft.

Seated at the defense table without an attorney, Zak did not know how to respond when Circuit Court Judge Robert Wirtz asked him to enter a plea. Wirtz entered a plea of not guilty on Zak's behalf.

Zak resigned from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 855 Martin Ave., on Nov. 30 after he confessed to stealing between $5,000 and $10,000 over a period of 10 years.

On Nov. 29, Pastor Brett Naumann accused Zak of stealing from the Thanksgiving offering and switching the envelope containing the money with one featuring Zak's handwriting.

Zak at first denied taking the money. He then contacted police on Nov. 30 claiming that he "had sinned and needed to confess to stealing money from the envelope," according to the criminal complaint.

He later admitted that he first took money after a 1999 Christmas service. He admitted to stealing about $20 to $30 from offerings about 12 times since January 2009, usually after large services like Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and Thanksgiving, according to the complaint.

Zak took out a loan to pay $10,000 to the church for the thefts from offerings, said Fond du Lac Police Department Capt. Steve Klein.

A plea and sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 18.

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Category: Church Security

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