Pastor admits charging $50K on church's credit cards, gets 15 years

The Chicago Tribune/May 4, 2014

By Steve Schmadeke

A former South Side pastor who ran up more than $50,000 in personal expenses on the church’s credit cards was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for theft, according to Cook County prosecutors and court records.

Bernard Johnson, 47, who was pastor at St. Paul Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft from a place of worship.

Prosecutors said the thefts took place between 2008 and 2010. He had been indicted in February 2013.

He had a previous conviction in Alabama for stealing more than $43,000 from a school there in 2009, prosecutors said. He was sentenced to probation.

Johnson opened a Visa card at Shore Bank in the church’s name in 2008 without authorization and bought clothes and groceries in Alabama and Chicago and paid for meals at restaurants and entertainment expenses, prosecutors said.

In May 2009, he opened an American Express account in the church’s name and used that to pay for clothing, trips, airline tickets for family members, restaurant tabs, car rentals and hotel stays, the charges alleged

Although an online resume says that Johnson was pastor at the church at 4644 S. Dearborn St. from the early 1990s until July 2010, he was only there less than two years before his removal, according to members of the congregation.

In handing down the sentence, Criminal Court Judge Maura Slattery Boyle gave Johnson credit for the more than 400 days he has spent in Cook County Jail since his indictment.

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