Pastor Jim Staley became a lightning rod for more than his controversial beliefs.
Some critics accused the St. Charles pastor, who attracted worldwide online attention to his Passion For Truth Ministries, of heresy, spending church money on himself and cheating others out of cash.
Until Thursday, Staley, 40, who rents a $1 million home after making excuses for a foreclosed house and unpaid taxes, blamed complaints on “enemies of the Father.”
But rather than face trial, Staley stood in a federal courtroom packed with supporters here Thursday and pleaded guilty of four counts of wire fraud. He admitted that, as owner of a financial consulting firm, he had cheated 16 investors out of $3.3 million while making $570,000 for himself.
Defense attorney Scott Rosenblum said after the hearing that Staley was shamed and “completely accepted responsibility.” The attorney stressed that the crime “had nothing to do with his role as a pastor.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dianna Collins said the victims were elderly, and some invested because he was a “nice religious man” who referred to at least several by endearing terms such as “Grandma.”
“Seniors tend to be more trusting and give people the benefit of the doubt, particularly people who hold themselves out as religious leaders,” Collins said.
Under federal guidelines, Staley could face six to eight years in prison at his sentencing July 29. His attorneys will ask for less.
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Robert Patrick, Susan Weich