Harvest Bible Chapel in greater Chicago whose founder James MacDonald recently slapped several former members and an independent journalist with a defamation lawsuit, has reported their chief information officer for allegedly stealing approximately $270,000.
The church first cited the theft in an October 23 email to members stating the amount represented less than one percent of their annual budget.
"Last week, we discovered evidence that a non-ministry member of our staff who worked in operations defrauded the church of an amount of money. If the evidence proves true, this would lead to a criminal charge being filed, and a preliminary report was filed today with the Elgin police department," the church said.
"The amount of money in question appears to be less than 1% of our annual budget and the time period appears to be less than a year. This person has never led any public ministry in our church and is on leave pending the completion of this investigation. We are looking to lay leaders and outside expertise who will work with our insurance on maximum recovery of funds. A full report will come to the congregation as soon as the investigation is complete and the facts are fully known," the email said.
A copy of the police report of the theft highlighted by The Wartburg Watch and confirmed with the Elgin Police Department on Tuesday said the theft was discovered over the weekend of October 19-22 and identified the delinquent staffer as the "the church's Chief Information Officer" "Jeffery Parkham." He is said to have been stealing funds since at least July 2017, which is longer than a year.
It appears that a typo may have been inserted in the police report however because the only chief information officer noted on Harvest Bible Chapel's website and in several documents uploaded on social media and other online sources is Jeff Parham, whose profile has been scrubbed from the church's website. When asked Tuesday to clarify the discrepancy, Sherri Smith, Harvest Bible Chapel's associate communications director, said the church would provide "no further updates or comments on anything due to ongoing investigation" beyond what was already stated in the October 23 email.
"Parkham was placed on administrative leave. Tatum (police officer) advised that the church would like this investigated and that they want Parkham prosecuted for the theft. Tatum further advised that the church would provide all information that they have in regard to this investigation," the report said.
The police report also noted that the church's attorney, Scott T. Seabolt of Seabolt Law Firm in Livonia, Michigan, would coordinate a forensic accounting review to determine the full extent of the funds that were stolen.
Seabolt did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Christian Post
Det. Scott St. John who is in charge of the case at Elgin Police Department told CP that he wasn't in a position to say too much about the case as it was still under investigation. He also couldn't immediately clarify the discrepancy in the spelling of the name of Harvest Bible Chapel's chief information officer.
He did say, however, that it will be another couple of weeks before they would know if a criminal charge would result from their investigation.
The October 23 email also noted that Paxton D. Singer, 24, a former youth pastor for Harvest Bible Chapel in Aurora was charged with the sexual exploitation of a 16-year-old boy on allegations he sought nude pictures of the boy and repeatedly asked to spend the weekend with him.
"I am also sorry to report that a youth director who served with us a few short months was involuntarily released last January when illegal and disqualifying behavior came to light. The three affected families, as well as parents of students on those campuses, as well as DCFS were notified immediately," the church's email from MacDonald and other church leaders noted.
A Chicago Tribune report noted that Singer was charged with misdemeanor sexual exploitation of a child and disorderly conduct, according to court records, which say he "knowingly enticed a person under 17 years of age to remove their clothing for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the defendant or the child." He also asked the boy about his sexual habits and invited him to spend the weekend with him.