POMPANO BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Police have arrested a South Florida church’s bookkeeper after, they said, hundreds of thousands of dollars disappeared from its finances.
Abraham Velazquez, who appeared in bond court Friday, stands accused of stealing the money from his Pompano Beach church.
“I do find probable cause for grand theft in the first degree over $100,000,” Broward Circuit Court Judge Tabitha Blackmon said. “Based on these allegations, from 2014 to 2019, it’s alleged that he stole over $391,000 for the church that he was a bookkeeper for. I am going to increase the bond to $50,000.”
According to a police report, the 36-year-old was the bookkeeper and treasurer of Centro Cristiano Restauracion Divina. He handled all of the church’s deposits of weekly offerings and completed yearly and monthly financial statements.
However, police said it was a fraud, and the board of directors grew suspicious when the church’s rent was not being paid.
When asked about the rent, Velazquez, according to the police report, told board members “he was so busy and under a lot of stress, but that he would ‘take care of it.'”
When it continued, Pastor Annette Acosta looked at the church’s bank account and told officers it was “completely depleted.” She also said, “the church should have had $247,000, and there was only $1,208.10.”
Officials then completed an audit of the church’s finances and learned Velazquez obtained a debit card and would transfer money into his personal bank account.
Police said Velazquez also stole cash from the weekly offerings, which was meant to sustain the church.
According to the audit, police said Velazquez stole a total of $391,889.45.
Acosta said in a statement, “We love Mr. Velazquez. We pray that he repents, learns a lesson from this experience, and most importantly, restores his relationship with Christ.”
“You cannot return to the church that this allegedly occurred from, Mr. Velazquez,” Blackmon ordered Velazquez. “You also cannot have any contact — direct or indirect — with the listed victim, any members or clergy of that church.”
According to police, one of the charges Velazquez made went to Palm Beach Puppies for nearly $2,000.
Velazquez remains behind bars at the Broward County Jail in Fort Lauderdale.
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