26-year pastor at Heritage Baptist Church allegedly confesses to stealing more than $100,000

Michigan Live/August 23, 2012

Grand Rapids Township, Michigan - A Kentwood pastor has allegedly confessed to embezzling more than $100,000 from his church over the last several years, according to court documents.

Etheridge Henry Moore, 58, a 26-year head pastor Heritage Baptist Church in Gaines Township, was arraigned on one count of embezzlement over $100,000 before Judge Steven Servaas in Kent County 63rd District Court on Thursday afternoon.

The felony charge carries a maximum penalty to 20 years in prison and either $50,000 in fines or three times the amount embezzled. He is being held on a $25,000 cash bond.

According to court documents, the church's head deacon called the Kent County Sheriff's Department on July 27 and told police dispatchers that Moore was stealing money and had told him to call the police.

The probable cause affidavit said Moore was turning in receipts for reimbursement that were never approved by the deacons or the church. Moore allegedly confessed to deputies that he'd been stealing money.

The documents indicate the theft had allegedly been going on since Jan. 1, 2010.

Moore, who started as head pastor of the roughly 750-member church in 1986, turned himself into police Thursday morning at the Kent County Jail and was booked into custody.

He is cooperating with police, said Moore's attorney Jason Jansma. He does not have any prior criminal history, he said.

During his arraignment, Moore said that he resigned from his position at the church last month.

"I think his primary goal is to get back on his feet, get employed and make things right," Jansma said.

Jansma denied that Moore had made a confession before the entire congregation, although there has been discussion within the church about the alleged theft. Moore, who lives in Caledonia, said he and his wife were currently separated during the video arraignment.

"He's a man of faith and I think that's what he's leaning on," said Jansma.

Moore is scheduled for a preliminary exam in early September.

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