Robert Keith, 46, an ex-convict pastor of the popular New Ebenezer Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, who was arrested in March for allegedly bilking a plumbing company he worked for out of $700,000, continues to preach from the pulpit.
Keith, who resides in West Orange and was installed as pastor at New Ebenezer last June, was arrested in March and charged with credit card theft, money laundering, forgery, theft by unlawful taking, and unlawful use of a credit card, according to NJ Today.
Jim Coyle, his wife Lisa and Jim's business partner, Tom Ruperto, of the South Plainfield plumbing company Rup Coe, told PIX 11 that when Keith answered their ad for a bookkeeper in 2015 and they learned he was also a pastor, they thought he was a gift from heaven.
After getting access to the company's accounts, however, between February 1, 2015 and February 7, 2017, Keith is alleged to have funneled between $700,000 and $750,000 from the business into his own pockets.
"He took basically our bank number and routing number and basically used it as his own account," Lisa Coyle told PIX 11.
The couple, while admitting that they should have been more watchful over their business, said Keith worked very hard to cover his tracks such as using Photoshop to falsify credit card refunds.
According PIX 11, in 2005 Keith was sentenced to 50 months in federal prison and was ordered to make more than $75,000 restitution for stealing money from a church in North Little Rock, Arkansas. He also used proceeds from the church to buy a BMW.
An earlier report said in that case, Keith disappeared with $11,000 in cash that belong to the Warren Hill Missionary Baptist Church at 6304 Crystal Hill Road in Arkansas, along with the BMW he had purchased in the church's name after only nine months on the job.
The report said shortly after he was installed as the pastor of the 60-member congregation in Arkansas, Keith began reorganizing the church and making several changes including firing the secretary and and taking on some of her duties.
He got a $23,900 loan from a financial institution, using the name of a church member without authorization. He then used that load to finance an Oct. 16, 2004, purchase of a 1997 BMW. He never made any payments on the loan and by December the car was wrecked.
In the latest allegations against him, Keith is also accused of using funds from the plumbing business to purchase another BMW.
Lisa Coyle said she warned Keith's church to be on the lookout for any payments or purchases that could have been made with the alleged ill-gotten funds.
The Christian Post reached out to Keith's church for comment Tuesday but no one answered the phone at the church Tuesday afternoon.
Keith's social media posts show that he is married with children. And his church has attracted high-profile preachers such as Jamal Bryant, who leads the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, Maryland.
Last Friday, he rejected a plea deal, according to WPIX. If he is indicted and convicted at trial he could be behind bars for up to 10 years.