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Former Aurora pastor pleads guilty to stealing $1.6M

Howard Richmond

Howard Richmond

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The former pastor of an Aurora church pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $1.6 million in donations and investments intended for the expansion of his church.

Howard Richmond, 52, of Naperville, was the pastor of Life Reach Ministries, a storefront church near the Fox Valley Mall.

Prosecutors said Richmond portrayed himself as a successful pastor who showed members of his congregation and other supporters bank documents stating that he had millions of dollars in the bank.

From October 2009 through June 2010, prosecutors said Richmond solicited funds from his victims with claims that he needed the money to expand his church. He promised to repay each loan, frequently with a significant premium.

His ruse ended up raking in more than $1.6 million in funds.

Prosecutors later determined that the documents Richmond was showing his victims were forged and that the church was in debt. They said the victims received no repayment on their loans.

“Mr. Richmond took advantage of the generosity of others to line his own pockets,” said DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin. “He betrayed the trust placed in him as pastor of the church, leveraging his victims’ faith to the tune of more than $1.6 million.”

Berlin thanked Officer Scott Reid and Investigator Robert Guerrieri of the Aurora Police Department as well as Assistant State’s Attorney Shanti Kulkarni for their work in uncovering Richmond’s scheme.

Richmond’s next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 9, 2013. He faces a possible sentence of up to 14 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

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