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Man gets 54 months in federal prison for defrauding Cleveland church

From Chattanooga Times Free Press: The former business manager of a Cleveland, Tennessee, church was sentenced to 54 months in prison after pleadi

From Chattanooga Times Free Press: The former business manager of a Cleveland, Tennessee, church was sentenced to 54 months in prison after pleading guilty to fraud for using church money for personal expenses, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.


For around six years dating from 2014, David Michael Apps, 50, was involved in a scheme to embezzle more than $1.3 million from Broad Street United Methodist Church, where he worked as the business manager, the Justice Department said.


Apps was sentenced Thursday in Chattanooga by U.S. District Judge Charles Atchley Jr., the release said.


As part of the plea agreement filed in February, Apps agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud. Beyond the 54 months of imprisonment, Apps was also sentenced to three years’ supervised release, ordered to pay $1.08 million in restitution and forfeited $4,200 in cash seized by the United States, according to the Justice Department.


According to previous reports in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Apps handled church expenses and receipts, controlled its operating and brokerage accounts, maintained its checkbook, and was the only person with online access to its bank account, court documents said.


App’s scheme included the use of an official church credit card to pay for personal expenses, the Justice Department said in its news release. Some of the expenses were for personal travel, automobiles, medical bills for family members, boat and marina fees, and other personal items — none of which was related to church business, the release said.


Apps also used stolen church money to acquire a large supply of firearms, the Justice Department said.


And he failed to pay the church’s payroll taxes over a period of years, which resulted in over a $1 million tax liability to the IRS from the church, according to the Justice Department.


Broad Street United Methodist Church pastors didn’t responded to emails seeking comment by press time Friday.


The church is part of the Hiwassee District of the Holston Conference, the governing body for United Methodist churches spanning from North Georgia throughout East Tennessee into Virginia.


“We are continuing to pray for everyone involved and that has been affected,” conference spokesperson Tim Jones said by email Friday. “This has been a difficult time for all, but we plan to move forward with the mission and ministries of Broad Street United Methodist Church.”


In the United Methodist Church, local churches handle their own accounting and choose their accounting software, Jones said in a March email. The Holston Conference and the General Council on Finance and Administration are available to help answer questions local churches may have about their finances, he said.