SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The former pastor of a historic Savannah church stole more than $250,000 in tithes and offerings from church members over the course of a decade, funneling parishioners' money into his personal bank account and spending it at retailers including Victoria's Secret, according to a federal indictment.
A grand jury indicted the Rev. Corey Megill Brown on 85 counts of wire fraud and 12 counts of mail fraud, according to charges filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. The indictment says Brown diverted checks from his congregation at Second African Baptist Church to an account he controlled and used to make personal withdrawals between March 2005 and February 2014.
Brown kept the account a secret from the church's board, elders and deacons, the indictment said, as "he was embezzling, stealing, misappropriating, and unlawfully converting money intended as tithes and offerings for Second African Baptist Church for his own personal benefit."
Brown did not immediately return phone messages left at his home Thursday. Court records did not list an attorney for Brown, and he was not scheduled to appear before a judge until his arraignment May 18.
For about 15 years, Brown served as senior pastor at Second African Baptist Church, established in 1807 by a congregation consisting largely of free blacks. He was also a Savannah-Chatham County police chaplain from 2010 to 2014, a period when federal authorities say Brown was stealing from his church.
Michelle Gavin, a police spokeswoman, said in a statement that Brown's affiliation with the police department "ended immediately" when its leaders learned the pastor was under investigation in December 2014. Brown left Second African that year as well.
According to the indictment, Brown received offerings mailed in by church members who were unable to attend services and deposited them in his secret account. It said he used that account to withdraw cash and write checks payable to himself that were deposited in his personal bank account.
Brown also used an ATM card from his secret church account for personal shopping, the indictment said, including a $312 online purchase from Saddleback Leather Company and nearly $53 spent at Victoria's Secret.
Phone messages left at Second African Baptist Church were not immediately returned.