A former accountant of a megachurch has admitted to stealing over four million dollars from the worship center’s treasury. In federal court, he pled guilty to wire fraud in connection with a multi-million scheme against his former employer. The case was investigated by the FBI.
Donald Gridiron, 51, of Pomona, California, admitting to defrauding the Agape Worship Center (Center) out of $4.25 million while serving as an accountant for the non-denominational church. He diverted funds to himself in 900 separate transactions ranging in amount from $1,000 to $20,000. The Center, located in Rahway, NJ, hired Gridiron, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), partly on his connections with individuals in the religious community. The Center agreed to pay Gridiron a monthly salary of $5,500 and to reimburse him up to $500 per month for reasonable expenses related to his work. He worked for the church from May, 2007 to March 2014, using his position to siphon money from the church’s bank account. He then redirected the funds for his own use, including mortgage payments, luxury car payments, and gambling expenses. He also failed to report income on his tax returns.
The Center has a 6.5 acre campus and serves around 5,000 members. Included in the facility are a nursery, ministry school, audio and video recording studio, book store, and youth center. After Gridiron’s arrest and indictment in December, 2014, the Center’s founder and senior pastor Lawrence Powell said, “Professionally, our former CPA violated the trust of the ministry. And personally, I feel betrayed because this man used to be my friend. It hurts, but we serve a God who will get us through this.” Church members repeated that sentiment, saying they believed their faith would carry them through the difficult time.
Gridiron faces more than 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines for his guilty plea to one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return.