Prosecutors say Jerrell G. Altic, 40, embezzled the money over a six-year period that ended in November 2017. Altic's attorney says Altic has admitted to stealing the money.
Tuesday morning, the former minister surrendered himself to the authorities in court after being indicted by a Harris County grand jury.
The district attorney says Altic used the money to fund overseas trips, get a doctorate from Lancaster Bible School and live outside of his means. While prosecutors declined to detail how the theft took place, they said it was by a series of misrepresentations and forgery.
"He's cooperating fully with the district attorney's office," said James Alston, Altic's attorney. "He feels horrible for what has happened and the pain that has caused everyone at the church and his family members, and he would want me to tell everyone that he's sorry."
Alston went on to say Altic "knew this day was coming."
“He knew this day was coming. And he’s sorry,” says attorney for Jerrell Altic. Altic is the former First Baptist minister accused of embezzling $800k+ from church. Surrounded by officers and media, he’s headed to jail. Bond set at $50k #abc13 https://t.co/MlyyB7fhqH pic.twitter.com/OvTCJq0Bcx— Courtney Fischer (@CourtneyABC13) December 11, 2018
Eyewitness News asked Altic's attorney why he allegedly stole the money.
"That's not being addressed at this time," Alston said.
Alston said his client has been in touch with leaders at First Baptist Church and wants to pay back the money.
First Baptist Church released the following statement, signed by Senior Pastor Gregg Matte and Deacon Chairman Craig Bloodworth:
"In November 2017, we discovered a limited set of suspicious financial activity related to Jerrell Altic. When we approached him about the matter, he immediately tendered his resignation. We reported our initial findings to law enforcement and our insurance provider, in keeping with our legal and fiduciary responsibilities, and began a thorough investigation conducted by staff leadership, relevant church committees and deacons as well as independent forensic accounting and legal experts. This investigation, internally and by law enforcement, brought us to yesterday, December 10, when a Harris County grand jury indicted him for first degree felony theft of more than $800,000 of the church's finances between 2011 and 2017, while he was employed here.
We have learned through the investigation process that, acting alone, Jerrell engaged in multiple deceptive and difficult-to-detect techniques to carry out this theft. That said, though his fraudulent activities involved missions funds, all of Houston's First ministry partners received their designated monies, as his actions did not prevent our church from providing resources to local ministries, church plants or other strategic partners. Nevertheless, we have already enacted additional policies to help ensure all donations and expenses are protected and handled properly moving forward. The outside expertise we sought helped us not only to determine the extent of this serious violation of trust, but also provided recommendations on how our financial controls might be improved or strengthened.
Unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of the legal and investigative procedures triggered by this matter, we have not been able to provide these details until now. While we were unable to inform the church body because of the ongoing investigation, we informed and kept updated the related church committees, including personnel, finance, and missions committees, along with key staff and the deacon body, throughout this process. These past months have been challenging and painful for us as the extent of Jerrell's actions came to light and as we wrestled with the tension of wanting to inform the congregation, while also carefully following law enforcement's lead in the investigation, balancing legal constraints with church procedures.
We are encouraged that our church's insurance coverage paid $500,000, which reimbursed a significant part of the loss, while our church leadership approved using unallocated contingency funds to replace the balance.
As challenging as this discovery has been for everyone involved, we have also been encouraged by the continued generosity and passion for missions work from our congregation-including through generous, unsolicited financial gifts from those who have come to know of his wrongdoing.
We pray for God's work to continue to be done at Houston's First, and for Jerrell and his family. Houston's First remains committed to the advancement of the Gospel in our city, our nation and around the world (Acts 1:8). We understand and take seriously our responsibility to properly steward the resources God gives us through the generosity of our church family."
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