Saturday, July 3, 2010

Virginia Church treasurer charged with embezzlement

The former treasurer of Bradley Street Baptist Church in Bristol, Va., was charged last month with embezzlement, accused of writing checks to himself worth $14,000 from the church’s bank account.

Randall C. Sargent Jr., 53, of Droke Lane in Blountville, Tenn., was charged with four counts of embezzlement, an unclassified felony akin to grand larceny.
Bristol Virginia Police Sgt. Steve Crawford said Sargent was the unpaid treasurer of the church for more than a decade. The current charges date to April 2008, according to court records, though Crawford said additional charges are pending, some for thefts dating back five years. Police are still waiting for subpoenaed credit card and banking records from Bank of America and Crawford estimated the final total could be as much as $30,000.
Sargent did not return a message left at his home Friday.
In March, a member of the church’s board of directors went to police after noticing some irregularities in the banking records. Sargent was the authorized signer on the church’s checking account and exclusively responsible for counting the money and paying the bills.
In April 2008, according to criminal complaints, Sargent issued himself a $3,000 check from the church’s bank account and cashed it at Carter Bank & Trust in Bristol, Va. Then in September 2008, Sargent wrote check number 5384 for $3,500, issued to cash, and cashed it at Blue Ridge Bank & Trust in Bristol, Va., according to the complaints.
In March 2010, Sargent wrote check number 5631 for $6,000, made out to himself and cashed at Carter Bank & Trust in Bristol, Va., court records stated. The next month, he wrote check number 5638 for $1,500, issued to himself and again cashed at Carter Bank & Trust.
Crawford said the leadership of the church is currently unclear. The board of directors disbanded and the pastor resigned, in part over the embezzlement investigation. No one returned a series of messages left on the church’s machine over several weeks.
Crawford called it a mid-sized congregation, though he was not sure exactly how big. The church’s funding comes exclusively from its congregation’s tithes and offerings.
At the time of his arrest, Sargent was an accountant with Charles Bridwell CPA and Associates in Gate City, Va. The company did not return a Friday call seeking comment.
There is no set sentencing parameters for unclassified felonies.
Sargent was released from the Bristol Virginia Jail on a $3,500 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in General District Court at 9 a.m. July 22.

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