A minister in New Orleans on Tuesday pleaded guilty to money laundering after he was accused of bilking nearly $900,000 from his church, its housing ministries, his parishioners as well as a charter school.
According to NOLA.com, Rev. Charles Southall III is said to have used the aforementioned funds for his personal benefit. The 64-year-old admitted to the allegations during an appearance in a U.S. District Court.
Prosecutors said Southall used his position as the church’s head to obtain and steal funds from his parishioners. The funds came in the form of tithes or donations. Authorities also cited a number of instances where Southall committed the alleged offenses.
In 2019, the accused minister allegedly managed to obtain a $10,000 tithe from a parishioner before he transferred the funds for his personal use. He is also said to have transferred $106,408 in donations to his personal accounts after he entreated a parishioner to provide the funds for charity and church renovation purposes. Southall received the donations over the course of four years.
Southall is also accused of personally benefiting from rental properties belonging to the church. He allegedly transferred $150,000 in rental payments to his personal accounts. Prosecutors said the accused minister further made money from church properties that he sold. He is said to have earned over $500,000 from those sales.
Southall served as a board president of the now-defunct Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy. Prosecutors said that he managed to obtain funds to construct an affiliate branch of the charter school. And though that school was never in operation, Southall allegedly employed an individual for the facility. Over the course of four years, more than $200,000 of that worker’s pay was deposited into a joint account that was shared between the employee as well as Southall, NOLA.com reported.
Prosecutors said Southall used the $889,565 he allegedly stole to purchase a car, tickets, and other things. He has since reached a plea agreement that will see him pay restitution to First Emanuel Baptist Church, the Spirit of Excellence Academy as well as his other victims. Southall will pay the church over $687,000. The church, on the other hand, will receive around $85,000 while he will pay his other victims over $110,000.
Southall also faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years. His sentencing date has been set for January 17.