Rev. Charles Southall III, the pastor of First Emanuel Baptist Church, pled guilty Tuesday of defrauding his church and a charter school of close to $900,000. The 64-year-old pastor has been a known religious leader in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where he has ministered for over three decades.

Details of the Case

Southall admitted before U.S. District Court Judge Jay Zainey on the money laundering case filed against him. The Baptist pastor reportedly stole his church members' tithes and donations beginning in 2019.

Yahoo News disclosed that Southall once pocketed a congregant's $10,000 tithe and used the money. The pastor also reportedly asked for donations from his congregations for four years by telling them the church would use the money to improve the church and finance charity projects. However, the minister allegedly took $106,408 and deposited it into his bank accounts.

Aside from pocketing his congregations' tithes and donations, Southall also stole over $500,000 from the sales proceeds of the church's properties. He also diverted payments worth $150,000 from the church's rental properties to his bank accounts.

Additionally, the minister pocketed the money for a charter school he created.

The news outlet bared that Southall established the Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy, which then got loans and grants for its operations. 

The Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy is supposed to be a Baton Rouge affiliate school and a New Orleans charter school. But, the school never operated for a single day. 

The embattled Baptist minister reportedly diverted almost $221,000 from 2013 to 2017 to his bank account and the account of a conspirator.

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Southall's Plea Agreement

The court handling Southall's money laundering case ordered him to pay restitution to the church relevant to his plea bargain.

Yahoo News said Southall agreed to pay over $100,000 to various victims of his acts, $687,000 to the First Emanuel Baptist Church, and $85,000 to the Spirit of Excellence Academy.

With his guilty plea, the court has scheduled Southall's sentencing for Jan. 17, 2023. The minister faces a possible 10-year jail time relevant to his money laundering case.

About Rev. Charles J. Southall III

According to his website profile, the Rev. Charles J. Southall III married Lila Maria Peters, with whom he had three children: Charles IV, Chelsey Junonna, and Myrtle. His parents were the late Rev. Charles Southall, Jr. and Isabella McFarland.

Southall became involved in church duties in his childhood days. He was a member of the New Zion Baptist Church Children's Choir at age 6 and became a Youth Choir and Junior Usher Board member at Pureligth Baptist Church.

When his father became a pastor, Southall served as a Minister of Education, Associate Minister, and Director of the Sanctuary Choir. He was ordained minister on Nov. 5, 1984, and became First Emanuel Baptist Church's seventh pastor on April 24, 1989.

Southall attended Frederick Junior High in 1973 and Joseph S. Clark Senior High in 1976. He also studied at the University of New Orleans in 1973 and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1984. He received his Doctor of Divinity from Union Baptist College & Theological Seminary in 2001 and another Doctor of Divinity from the Christian Bible College in 2002.

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