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Dade City pastor pleads guilty in embezzlement case

TAMPA — A Dade City pastor is accused of embezzling more than $800,000 from a union investment fund he managed and funneling at least some of the money to his church.

Gregory Sims, 38, pleaded guilty in federal court this week to theft or embezzlement of an employee benefit plan. The charge carries a possible five-year prison sentence, though Sims' plea agreement emphasizes repaying the money he took from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 915, based in Tampa.

The plea agreement says Sims, who was pastor of Crossroads Church on Clinton Avenue, began working for a company called Antares Staffing in late 2007. Antares was a subsidiary of Medical Mutual Services LLC, which managed the IBEW's health, welfare, pension and vacation funds.

Sims' responsibilities included keeping financial records, reconciling accounts and issuing checks. He worked for Antares until January 2009, when he was fired. In June of that year, the plea deal says, an audit of IBEW funds turned up 11 checks from the union's accounts to Crossroads Church totaling $813,142.17.

"After unlawfully diverting the money from the IBEW Fund to the Crossroads Church accounts that he controlled, Sims disbursed the embezzled IBEW Fund money for his personal benefit and for the use of his parishioners and associates," the plea agreement says.

To try to hide his embezzlement, Sims manipulated the bookkeeping to show payments to entities other than Crossroads Church, the agreement says.

Sims could not be reached Thursday. His attorney, David Weisbrod of Tampa, did not return a message seeking comment. A message left at the church also was not returned, and it was not known whether Sims is still affiliated with the church.

The plea agreement says Sims is on the hook to repay the full amount. He will be sentenced Sept. 27.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Dade City pastor pleads guilty in embezzlement case 09/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 8:46pm]
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