Pastor Charged With Fraud - NBC Chicago

Pastor Charged With Fraud

Three men, including church member, claim they lost more than $470,000



    Pastor Charged With Fraud

    The pastor of a church in Aurora has been charged with three felony counts of theft by deception for allegedly bilking three men, including one member of his church, out of more than $470,000.

    The pastor, 49-year-old Howard Richmond, of the 2900 block of Brossman Avenue in Naperville, was arrested Wednesday after Aurora Police executed a search warrant at his home.

    Richmond heads Life Ministries, a storefront church located at 4054 Fox Valley Center Drive in Aurora.

    The criminal charges are the culmination of an ongoing Aurora Police investigation that began more than 13 months ago when a 60-year-old Skokie doctor, who is a member of the congregation at Life Ministries, accused Richmond of swindling around $400,000 from him between December of 2008 and March of 2009.

    The doctor said Richmond approached him following a service about investing money to help purchase the shopping center property where the church is currently located, and to help fund the building of a new church.

    "It was essentially through like an investment proposal,"  said Lieutenant Paul Nelson.  "He would ask [the alleged victims] for money to put toward the church and they were supposedly going to get a return on that investment."

    Richmond allegedly used the same ruse to deceive a 43-year-old Aurora man with whom he had a previous business relationship out of $8,000 in May, 2009; and a 64-year-old Chicago dentist who had purchased some church related DVDs, out of more than $67,000 between July and August of 2009.

    Neighbors said they're not surprised to hear about the allegations.  One said Richmond confided to her that he was the subject of a police investigation.

    "He told me -- this was a couple of months ago -- that people were trying to find him for money, that he was accused of swindling money out of his own church," said neighbor Abigail Reckles.

    It is not clear what Richmond did with the money, police said. 

    Richmond’s bond call is pending in DuPage County Court.  If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in jail.

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