CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire executive pastor has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing about $130,000 from his church to pay off gambling debts and make purchases.
Gregory Neal, of Barrington, 45, was sentenced in federal court Wednesday and ordered to pay back the Journey Baptist Church and the insurance company that covered a portion of the losses.
He pleaded guilty in April to one count of wire fraud.
“A man who abused his position of trust — as a leader of his church — and stole from his congregation to support his gambling habit has been brought to justice,” U.S. Attorney Jane Young said in a statement.
Prosecutors said that between January 2017 and March 2020, Neal made unauthorized withdrawals of the church’s funds to pay off his debts and made unauthorized purchases with church credit cards.
His lawyer asked for a sentence of five years of probation to allow Neal to continue running his carpentry business so he can pay back the church and support his family.
“When the theft was uncovered, Mr. Neal confessed and tried to make amends,” his sentencing memorandum said. “He repaid several thousand dollars and, after being confronted by law enforcement, saved additional money to repay. He attended Gambler’s Anonymous meetings and started a new business, building kitchen islands, to support his family.”
Included were letters of support from Neal’s wife and church parishioners.