Local Pastor Accused Of Spending Church Funds On Lavish Vacations

Posted at 4:40 PM, Apr 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-16 18:59:20-04

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (April 16, 2014)– The founder of a West Michigan church is facing embezzlement charges.

According to court documents, Pastor Gary Petersen will be charged with two counts of felony embezzlement. He’s accused of taking money from Wellspring Church, where he was once the pastor.

The documents show that in 2006, Petersen opened an American Express Credit Card in the church’s name, and that he designated himself as the only authorized user, something the church claims to have known nothing about.

FOX 17 spoke with a deacon of the church who said Petersen resigned in September because of an unrelated issue that he’s calling, “moral fail.”

The church issued the following statement:

“It came to light through an external audit of the Wellspring Church financial records that former pastor Gary Petersen had been using church money for personal expenditures. Ottawa County authorities have investigated the financial improprieties and have decided to file criminal charges, which is what brings this matter into the public eye at this time.”

In 2010, according to the documents, Petersen charged $1,416 to the card, which covered the costs of airline tickets and a Costa Pacifica cruise out of Rome for him and his wife. Then in 2012, the documents also show Petersen was offered a gift from a friend to vacation in Colorado. But, when Petersen arrived he wasn’t satisfied with the resort, alleging he then paid for an upgrade that cost $1,568.

FOX 17 stopped by Petersen’s home to talk with him about the allegations but no one answered.

According to a detective’s statement in the documents, after making the charges to the card, Petersen then paid down the balance by using the only bank account held by the church. Saying, he made those statements online or by voice to avoid writing a check, which would’ve required authorization from the finance committee.

Petersen founded Wellspring Church nearly 18 years ago. Since his departure in September, Petersen founded The Rock Church in Grandville, where he is currently serving as pastor. FOX 17 reached out to the church but they didn’t want to make a comment.

Petersen is expected to be formally charged on Wednesday, April 23.