Ex-Bloomingdale pastor pleads guilty

Savannah Morning News/May 9, 2011

An oft-arrested former Bloomingdale pastor pleaded guilty May 4 in federal court to stealing more than $201,000 from the New Harvest International Ministries church he pastored.

Kenneth Terrell's admissions before U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. were to a single count in a seven-count indictment for wire fraud, charging him with taking money from the church through wire transfers for his own use over a four-year period beginning in 2006.

The count charges a wire fraud of $201,450 on Oct. 10, 2007. As part of the negotiated plea, prosecutors will dismiss the remaining six charges, but those counts can be considered in determining the length of sentence to be imposed.

Terrell, 46, will remain in custody while probation officers complete a pre-sentencing investigation and recommend sentencing range for Moore's use in imposing sentence. Moore will make the final determination.

No sentencing date was scheduled. Maximum statutory penalty for the wire fraud charge is 20 years in prison, but recommended guidelines are usually far less.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Natalie Lee presented evidence to show that Terrell's local congregation, located on U.S. 80 in Bloomingdale, was part of the national International Pentecostal Holiness Church Inc.

In addition to his duties as pastor, Terrell agreed to handle the financial duties of construction of a new New Harvest property, evidence showed.

A joint investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and the Savannah-Chatham police revealed that instead of spending the church funds for that construction, Terrell often spent them on his own personal expenses and benefits.

Terrell has remained in custody since U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith denied bond in January, citing what he called Terrell's "abysmal" criminal record.

Terrell has 27 arrests over a 27-year period, including five felony convictions, eight misdemeanor convictions and two contempt of court charges, evidence before Smith showed.

"The evidence of criminality is strong," Smith said. "This is an abysmal history."

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