Los Angeles pastor used church credit cards for personal expenses

Money used for jewelry, vacations, clothes and auto supplies

The pastor of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest and most prominent black congregations in Los Angeles, used church credit cards to pay for at least $122,000 in personal expenses over a three-year period, including jewelry, family vacations, clothing and auto supplies, according to documents and church sources.

The spending came to light during the course of an independent audit and Internal Revenue Service investigation into the financial affairs of the pastor, John J. Hunter; his wife, Denise Brown Hunter; and the church, according to people connected with the church, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation.

Earlier this year, field officials in the Los Angeles office of the IRS’ criminal division issued summonses to two banks and a charge card company to testify and produce financial records involving Hunter and the church, documents obtained by The Times show. IRS officials would not respond to questions about the status of their investigation.
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– Source: First AME pastor’s spending examined, Teresa Watanabe , Los Angeles Times, Nov. 30, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

First AME pastor apologizes to congregation for alleged misspending

The pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles apologized to his congregants Sunday for any embarrassment caused by disclosures that he had used church credit cards for sizable personal expenses and had failed to pay federal taxes for several years. Pastor John J. Hunter, 51, used church credit cards to pay for at least $122,000 in personal expenses, including family vacations, clothes, jewelry, bikes and auto supplies, The Times reported Sunday. He and church finance officials said he had signed an agreement to repay the money and instituted stricter accounting policies, such as spending guidelines and more frequent audits, to guard against future problems.

Hunter also told The Times that he is working with federal tax officials to repay back taxes, penalties and interest amassed over 17 years, which have resulted in federal tax liens of more than $309,000 against himself and his wife, Denise Brown Hunter. He explained that he had legally opted out of the Social Security system several years ago, as ministers are allowed to do, but that the IRS had no record of it and assessed the taxes.
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– Source: First AME pastor apologizes to congregation for alleged misspending, Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 1, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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This post was last updated: Monday, December 1, 2008 at 12:35 PM, Central European Time (CET)