Louisiana Pastor Apparently Forgot The Golden Rule, Conned His Community Out Of Almost $900K

Reverend Charles Southall III pleas guilty to money laundering after taking too many dips in the collection plate.

October 21, 2022 at 3:38 pm

For over three decades, Rev. Charles Southall III has led the First Emanuel Baptist Church. Under his leadership, the church’s ministry has grown to include multiple locations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. He also created the Spirit of Excellence Academy, a charter school serving both cities. Unfortunately, on Oct. 18, the congregation’s leader admitted to money laundering.

According to FOX 8 Live, the 64-year-old pastor came clean after FBI charges were pressed last month. Their investigation determined that Southall laundered almost $900,000 from donations, congregants’ tithes and church-owned real estate assets for his personal use.

Evidence of fraud began in New Orleans and continued when he moved to Baton Rouge in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina.

According to NOLA.com, investigators said “he exploited his position as the leader of his church, soliciting and then stealing tithes and donations from parishioners.”

Southall racked up a long list of transactions over the years. NOLA.com states Southall extracted a $10,000 tithe from a parishioner in 2019. He then solicited donations from a parishioner over four years for charity and church building improvements, but embezzled $106,408 of the donations to his own accounts.

One of the largest sums was intended for the Spirit of Excellence Academy location in Baton Rouge.

 

FOX 8 Live reports that Southall allegedly diverted nearly $221,000 between 2013 and 2017 from the Spirit of Excellence Academy bank account.

 

This money was to be used to expand the charter school to include a Baton Rouge location in conjunction with the location in New Orleans.

The school never opened.

FOX 8 Live reports that a joint bank account controlled by Southall and a co-conspirator, referred to as Person A in court documents, was where the money was transferred.

The church also owned rental properties, and Southall accepted rental payments — totaling $150,000 — into his account.

In addition, the fallen pastor sold properties owned by the church, pocketing more than $500,000.

“In total, Southall obtained approximately $889,565.86 through his fraudulent schemes,” the office of U.S. Attorney Duane Evans said in a statement provided to FOX 8 Live.

The church leader has agreed to pay restitution as part of his plea agreement. Southall claims he will repay more than $687,000 to First Emanuel Baptist Church,  $85,000 to the Spirit of Excellence Academy and more than $110,000 to individuals he stole from.

For money laundering, Reverand Southall faces up to 10 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17.