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Tuesday, February 05, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Church pastor charged with theft

A Midlands church has lost $136,000. One of the people accused of taking it is the man who preaches every Sunday.

They're accused of doing one of the most deceptive things a church official could do. Church member Mary Sullivan says, "I was shocked."

Investigators think they were stealing money from the church. Lt. Phillip Crawford says, "I think we were all shocked when we first found out."

It happened at St. John's United Methodist Church in Lugoff. Pastor Gerald Lord is accused of using a church credit card to rack up a $16,000 bill that included all personal items, all over a two-year period. He'd only been there about three years.

Lea Ann O'Quinn, the church's bookkeeper but not a member of the church, is accused of using $120,000 of the church's money. Investigators say she used a church credit card for five years to help pay off her debts, and then used the church funds to pay off the credit card bill.

"I had no idea anything like that would be going on," says Sullivan. "I just wish it hadn't happened."

Investigators say when church administrators reported to O'Quinn that money was missing, she admitted what she had been doing and she also informed them about Pastor Lord's credit card.

Lt. Phillip Crawford says, "I think it's sad; but again, good people do bad things sometimes. It's not necessarily that they're bad people."

Sullivan says, "I think everybody was shocked and hurt, but I think everybody is going to pitch in and try to build from that and everybody makes mistakes. So, I think we will be better for it."

WIS News 10's Trey Paul spoke with Pastor Lord by phone. He wouldn't comment on his arrest, but he did say he loves his church, and his prayers and thoughts are with its members. O'Quinn couldn't be reached.

If convicted, they could both face up to 10 years in prison.

This is the second scandal to hit Saint John's United Methodist in the past couple of weeks. Saint John's is the same church where Russell Spitzer was a Committee Chair. The 49-year-old is the ex-Boy Scout leader charged with sending porn to one of the Boy Scouts. Shortly after Spitzer's arrest, Saint John's held a parent meeting to talk about the charges against the former scout leader.