The former pastor of the Elmwood Avenue Church of God has been arrested and accused of stealing more than a quarter of a million dollars over ten years from his congregation.
According to the Columbia Police, Charles Edward Ledford, 52, was arrested at his home in Simpsonville, S.C. following an investigation into complaints from several church members. He faces charges of Forgery, Bank Fraud and 10 counts of Breach of Trust.
Ledford's replacement at the church, Pastor Byron E. Powers, launched the investigation of church finances after several members complained that their records of donations did not match the church records.
During the investigation, a secret bank account was uncovered. Opened in 2001, $253,000 had passed through the account which listed Ledford and the current church treasurer, John Hyatt, as signators. Hyatt told police that his signature was a forgery and that he knew nothing about the account.
The secret account, titled the Church of God Ministry Expense Account, listed a P.O. Box as an address instead of the church's actual address on Elmwood Avenue. In addition, according to the complaint, the endorsement stamp used on checks deposited in the account did not match the official church endorsement stamp.