Police investigating church's missing money

PAINESVILLE, Ohio - Police are investigating about $55,000 missing from a small church's treasury and leaders have voted to remove the pastor, who pleaded guilty to taking property from another church.

Leaders at the 75-member Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church confronted the Rev. Gary T. Johnson after the money disappeared, police said.

Trustees voted to remove Johnson, but the congregation then elected to keep him in his post. Johnson has said he will continue to hold services, Lt. Troy Hager said Friday.

Church leaders decided not to pursue charges against Johnson, 47, last year when they suspected he was behind nearly $3,500 of charges on church credit cards, police said. Johnson agreed to repay the money, Capt. Rick Kline told

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

But leaders filed a complaint Monday after more money turned up missing, Hager said.

No charges have been filed.

Johnson came to the church in Painesville, 28 miles northeast of Cleveland, in 2004 from the New Birth Baptist Church in Burlington, N.C.

Officials there said Johnson cashed a church insurance check, took out loans in the church's name and took money from a day-camp program.

He pleaded guilty to obtaining property by false pretenses and was ordered in 2004 to pay $54,000 in restitution to the church, according to North Carolina court records.

As part of his plea, prosecutors dropped an embezzlement charge.

Members of Mount Olive only recently learned of that case, Deacon Eural Wilson said.

Johnson could not be reached for comment. He was not available at his home Thursday,

The Plain Dealer


Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.