Central City pastor Charles Southall III pleads guilty to money laundering, faces up to 10 years in federal prison
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Rev. Charles Southall III, executive pastor of the First Emanuel Baptist Church in Central City and Baton Rouge, pleaded guilty to a single count of money laundering Tuesday (Oct. 18) in New Orleans’ federal court.
Southall, 64, faces up to 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced next Jan. 17 by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey.
The pastor at First Emanuel for the past 33 years, Southall was charged just last month after an FBI investigation determined he had illegally siphoned nearly $900,000 from church-owned real estate assets, donations and congregants’ tithes for his personal use.
Federal prosecutors also said Southall created the Spirit of Excellence Academy for the purpose of operating a charter school in New Orleans and an affiliated school in Baton Rouge. Though Spirit of Excellence received funding in the form of grants and loans, the Baton Rouge school never opened, and investigators said that between 2013-17 nearly $221,000 from the enterprise was diverted to a bank account joining controlled by Southall and a co-conspirator referred to as Person A in court documents.
“In total, Southall obtained approximately $889,565.86 through his fraudulent schemes,” the office of U.S. Attorney Duane Evans said in a statement.
As part of his guilty plea, Southall agreed to pay restitution to his churches, to the Spirit of Excellence Academy and to two individual congregants whose tithes and other donations he diverted for his personal expenses, the statement said.
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