Methodist Church official is fired after admitting embezzlement Calif. treasurer had worked in New York

November 24, 1995|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

In the second allegation this year of embezzlement involving a major national church, the new United Methodist Church treasurer for Southern California and Hawaii has been fired after reportedly admitting he transferred church funds into a personal account while he worked in New York.

William R. Jones, who took office as treasurer of the California Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church only two weeks ago, was relieved of his duties Nov. 17 by Bishop Roy I. Sano after the New York allegations came to light, the bishop's office said Wednesday.

Bishop Sano, who heads the California Pacific-Conference, said Mr. Jones reportedly took between $350,000 and $380,000 while working in New York for the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

Mr. Jones had served in New York as general controller since 1993.

Bishop Sano said that while Mr. Jones wrote four questionable checks, the bulk of the funds were transferred electronically in a single transaction.

The bishop added that no local funds had been taken and that additional security measures have been put into place to guard against unauthorized electronic transfers.

Mr. Jones has admitted taking the money and has promised to pay it back, church officials said.

Bishop Sano said he hired Mr. Jones last August after Mr. Jones received "a very high recommendation" from the New York-based General Board.

Mr. Jones assumed the post of treasurer of the church's California-Pacific Conference in Pasadena Nov. 1 and had served in the position only a few days when the New York allegations came to light, the church said. The money was apparently taken the third week of October, Bishop Sano said.

Bishop Sano said he understood an arrest warrant had been issued and that Mr. Jones was returning to New York to face charges.

Only last May, the Episcopal Church disclosed that its national treasurer, Ellen F. Cooke, had embezzled more than $2.2 million from its national headquarters in New York. The church hopes to recover most of those funds by selling property owned by Ms. Cooke and her husband, an Episcopal priest, and by collecting on a bond. Ms. Cooke had been asked to resign before the embezzlement was discovered.

That disclosure rocked the Episcopal Church and led some bishops to call for the resignation of Presiding Bishop and Primate Edmund L. Browning, but Bishop Browning refused.

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