Former New Orleans Church Official Indicted for Wire Fraud and Making False Statements to the FBI
United States Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced that CHARLES WILLIAMS, JR. (“WILLIAMS”), age 49, of New Orleans, Louisiana, was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 18, 2019 and charged with twenty-two (22) counts of wire fraud and three (3) counts of making false statements to special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”).
According to the Indictment, in January 2017, the defendant was elected Senior Warden of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (“St. Luke’s”) located at 1222 North Dorgenois Street in New Orleans. In his role as Senior Warden, WILLIAMS was responsible for paying all of St. Luke’s bills including insurance, salaries, and utilities. WILLIAMS took over the finances of the church and reduced or eliminated other church members’ access to church finances shortly after becoming the Senior Warden at St. Luke’s. WILLIAMS did not share church bank statements with other church members in an effort to conceal his embezzlement of church funds and he transferred church funds from one bank account to another account before withdrawing the funds. During his tenure, WILLIAMS embezzled approximately $89,000 from St. Luke’s in his capacity as Senior Warden. WILLIAMS deposited much of the money into his various Chase accounts and used some of the stolen money to support his pizza restaurant located in the Esplanade Mall.
On August 29, 2018, FBI special agents interviewed WILLIAMS. During the interview, WILLIAMS made three false statements to the FBI agents. Specifically, WILLIAMS said he used cash withdrawn from a St. Luke’s account to fund a $2,500 Chase cashier check dated February 21, 2018, with Remitter: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church/Operating Account. When the agents specifically asked whether bank records would show the money for the cashier’s check came from a St. Luke’s account, he denied that bank records would show the $2,500 coming from the church account. Further, he told the agents that the $2,500 had come from his personal account. The statements were false because WILLIAMS knew that on February 21, 2018, he had withdrawn $2,900. from St. Luke’s operating account ending x1224 and then used $2,500 of those funds to purchase the above described cashier’s check made payable to the Esplanade Mall for the benefit of his pizza restaurant. WILLIAMS also lied to the agents when he told them he had invested St. Luke’s money with a particular company. Lastly, he lied when he claimed he had not used any of St. Luke’s money for his business or for personal use. The FBI’s investigation determined that all of these assertions were in fact false.
U. S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser reiterated that the indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, WILLIAMS faces a maximum penalty of twenty (20) years imprisonment for each of the wire fraud counts and five (5) years as to each of the false statement counts. Upon release from prison, WILLIAMS faces up to three (3) years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 per count.
U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba, Supervisor of the Financial Crimes Unit.