A former Union pastor was given a probation sentence Tuesday and ordered to pay more than $80,000 in restitution for Social Security fraud.
Paul F. House Sr. pleaded guilty last year to federal fraud charges of failing to disclose income from a Union church and ministry he operated with his wife Charolette House.
Paul House was the full-time pastor of the Union Assembly of God Church and he and his wife operated Harvest Ministries World Outreach, Inc., authorities said.
Paul House, 64, pled guilty to one count of fraud with the Social Security Administration and Charolette R. House, 70, pled guilty to two felony counts of bankruptcy fraud.
He was given a three-year probation sentence and ordered to pay $86,594.20, the U.S. attorney’s office reported. Charolette was sentenced in January to three years of probation.
Between 2003 and 2009, bank records revealed the deposits of salary checks from the Union church from which substantial funds were transferred into the personal accounts of the defendants or to pay their personal expenses. A small fraction of the funds were used for things which could be identified as ministry expenses, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
According to court documents, on Nov. 14, 2007, the Social Security Administration received information that Paul House Sr. was receiving Social Security benefits while being employed by the church. House had been appointed to serve full time as pastor in November 2003 receiving approximately $350 per week. Initially, House’s salary had been paid directly to him and tax form 1099 had been issued for the tax year 2003. In March 2004, House asked that his check be issued to “Harvest Ministries.”
Harvest Ministries is actually Harvest Ministries World Outreach, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization incorporated and established by Paul and Charolette House. Between 2003 and 2009, bank records revealed the deposits of salary checks from the Union church from which substantial funds were transferred into the personal accounts of the defendants.
On Nov. 30, 2009, Paul House completed a work activity report claiming that he had not worked on a full-time basis since 2003 and that he had not received any money from the Union Assembly of God Church, located at 600 S. McKinley St., since March 2004 with the exception of annual monetary Christmas gifts and appreciation gifts. He also denied any form of self-employment.
The concealment of income from the church and the ministry would have resulted in the termination of disability benefits. House’s unreported employment resulted in an overpayment of disability benefits of $86,594 to Paul House Sr., according to federal authorities.
During the course of the Social Security investigation, authorities learned that on Aug. 18, 2008, the couple filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in the U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. On the bankruptcy petition, they claimed that their sole source of income was Social Security and disability benefits.
The financial benefits received from the church directly or through Harvest Ministries World Outreach Inc. were not included in the accounting. Through the plan submitted to the bankruptcy court, they sought to discharge liabilities in the amount of $59,497.
Each felony count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
This case was investigated by Social Security Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Berry is handling the case.