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Ex-pastor gets 15-year sentence for stealing from church

Updated: May 5, 2014 8:25PM

A former South Side pastor was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday after he pleaded guilty to bilking his church out of more than $50,000 in a credit card fraud scheme.

Bernard Johnson, 48, was indicted on multiple felonies in February, 2013, after prosecutors say he spent thousands on credit cards he took out in the name of his church, St. Paul Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in the Grand Boulevard neighborhood.

Prosecutors say that between 2008 and 2010, Johnson used the cards for purchases in Alabama and Illinois, including groceries, dining, entertainment, car rentals, air plane tickets and clothing.

Johnson, who most recently lived Augusta, Ga., pleaded guilty in exchange for having an unspecified number of other charges against him dropped, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

Prior to the most recent charges leveled against the former pastor, in 2008 Johnson stepped down as principal of a Mobile, Ala., middle school following another criminal case, an official for the Mobile County School District confirmed.

Johnson officially resigned from the district a year later when he was found guilty of stealing more than $43,000 from the school, authorities said. In Alabama, Johnson was sentenced in 2009 to five years probation and ordered to pay restitution.

Officials with his former church, located at 4644 S. Dearborn St., could not be reached for comment.

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