Popular church leader, Bishop Gerald Edmund, 77, has been sentenced to two years in jail, after pleading guilty to one count of fraud by false representation and two of theft whilst working as a Line Manager at Bethel Convention Centre (BCC) in West Bromwich.
During a six-month period, Bishop Edmund stole £186,000. His crime came to light when Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic, owners of BCC, found there was not enough money to pay its bills.
Amounts misappropriated by Bishop Edmund included £14,000 of petty cash; the transferring of £15,000 out of a church account, and cashing cheques totalling £157,000 while serving as a church treasurer.
The Bishop, who served as a magistrate and once presided over the largest Black Pentecostal congregation in Bristol, had been duped by an online scam into believing he had inherited millions of pounds in a will left by a religious leader in the Congo.
Det Con Simon Hughes, from West Midlands Police, said: “Initially, [Edmund] claimed the money was to pay admin fees of solicitors acting for followers around the world, who had passed away and left money to the church.
“His suggestion was this would release millions of pounds, so the church would ultimately benefit.”
Judge Melbourne Inman QC accepted some of the stolen money had been taken because Edmund was himself a victim of fraud. The defence counsel, Satvir Aujla, described Edmund as a “broken man, suffering ill health.”
Passing sentence, Judge Inman acknowledged Edmund had done “a great deal of good” during his Christian work, but told him: “You were able to take the money because of the high degree of trust that was placed in you by your church.”
Following the sentencing, Bethel United Church of Christ Apostolic released a statement, part of which stated, “We deeply regret the impact that this may have on the Christian and non-Christian community, and sincerely pray that these events will not dishearten people from putting their faith in God’s church.”