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Wednesday, December 28, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Ex-pastor faces up to 10 years in prison

Carol Sowers
The Arizona Republic

SCOTTSDALE - A former pastor who once preached against leniency for thieves, could spend up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted of stealing thousands of dollars from parishioners.

Patrick A. Shetler, 49, was indicted on one count of felony theft for allegedly stealing between $25,000 and $100,000 from parishioners of the Glass and Garden Community Church between February 2004 and July 2005.

Shetler, who is not in custody, is scheduled to be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Courtroom 501 of the Maricopa County Superior Court, 201 W. Jefferson St.

The sentencing range for a Class 2 felony theft is four to 10 years.

Although the one-page indictment does not detail the alleged thefts, Shelter admitted to Scottsdale police that he stole $20,000 from the church during those 17 months to pay for medical expenses and a second wedding reception.

But church auditors, including parishioner Paul Hurst, say church bank statements show that Shetler wrote himself checks, and used church credit and debit cards to allegedly dip another $21,000 out of church accounts in 2005.

He said Glass and Garden officials sent Scottsdale police bank records dating back to 2002 that put the total loss closer to $89,000.

Hurst said he was surprised that those earlier records were not included in the indictment, but said he is relieved that "we are at least getting somewhere in the case."

Parishioners have waited since Shetler's August arrest for word on whether he would be charged. He was released the next day pending further investigation.

A once popular pastor, Shetler fell out of grace at the church at 86th Street and McDonald Drive after a church secretary in June began getting calls from creditors saying that bills were not being paid.

Records show that Shetler had been using church funds, which come parishioners' pocketbooks, to pay for a $6,000 Disneyland trip and a $1,760 cellphone bill. Hurst said the church agreed to pay Shetler's cellphone bill, but never expected it "to go that high."

Shetler, who was hired at Glass and Garden in 1999, also admitted to police that he gambled occasionally. But he said that was not the source of his financial troubles, including a $174,000 bankruptcy filed in September.

A few months before his August arrest, Shetler, who once ministered to Maricopa County jail inmates, told parishioners that one of the weaknesses of the criminal justice system is leniency for thieves.

Quoting the Bible, he said the penalty "for this is slavery, restitution is to be made."