AC Transit’s Chief Financial Officer Charged With Embezzling Over $500,000 from His Church, Allen Temple Baptist In Oakland, CA

Members of the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland are seen on Nov. 5, 2008. Photo: Kurt Rogers, The Chronicle
Members of the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland are seen on Nov. 5, 2008. Photo: Kurt Rogers, The Chronicle

AC Transit’s chief financial officer has been charged with embezzling more than $500,000 from a prominent Oakland church and using the money to pay for everything from his kids’ private school tuition to a golf club membership.

Lewis Clinton Jr. has been AC Transit’s $225,000-a-year chief financial officer since 2008 and a trustee of the agency’s retirement board.

The criminal charges on which he was arraigned Monday in Hayward don’t relate to his AC Transit job, however – they’re connected to Allen Temple Baptist Church, the 5,000-member church in East Oakland where the 57-year-old Clinton worships.

Over the past seven years, Clinton was board president of two church-run corporations set up to provide housing and other services to low- and moderate-income people in Oakland. He also ran a church foundation created to accept philanthropic gifts.

In charging him with four felony counts of fraud and grand theft, Alameda County prosecutors said Clinton used his position on the three overlapping boards to steal church funds.

From 2007 to 2012, the district attorney’s complaint says, Clinton diverted $400,000 that the church made from the sale of cell phone tower rights and put it into a company he owned called Eagle Asset Management.

Separately, the complaint alleges that from 2008 to 2013, Clinton illegally withdrew $66,000 from a Wells Fargo account belonging to the church.

In addition, prosecutors charge that Clinton stole more than $100,000 in Allen Temple’s money from a church account at a credit union.

Prosecutors say that in addition to spending church money on his children’s private school tuition and a golf club membership, Clinton redirected Allen Baptist funds to cover his mortgage and tax payments. He also allegedly bought a luxury car with church money.

The alleged embezzlement came to light in December 2012 when a bookkeeper noticed suspicious ATM withdrawals from the Wells Fargo account. But the investigation didn’t get going until three months later when board members noticed they were short of housing funds, according to the complaint.

An Allen Baptist official earlier had asked Clinton about seemingly excessive spending by the church groups he ran, the criminal complaint says. “She was reassured by (Clinton) in his capacity as board president that nothing was improper,” prosecutors said.

Clinton, who lives in Vallejo, is free on $100,000 bail and was arraigned Monday in Alameda County Superior Court. Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Most church leaders declined to discuss the case, saying they may be called as witnesses.

But the Rev. Daniel Buford, who heads the church’s social justice ministry, told us he was shocked by the news.

Clinton “was a good person and a leader” at Allen Baptist, Buford said. “I’m just sorry for him and his family.”

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle
Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross

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