In early 2014, a major landslide hit the city of Oso in Washington, killing 43 people and injuring many more. President Barack Obama visited the city shortly afterwards and even met with survivors in the Oso Community Chapel, headed up by Pastor Gary J. Ray.
Approximately $390,000 in donations came in to the city around that time.
But funny thing about that money… only about $350,000 was ever used for relief efforts. The rest of it never materialized until it was eventually found in a personal account overseen by — wait for it — Pastor Gary J. Ray.
Prosecutors allege that Gary J. Ray, 56, diverted the donations for his own use, with “no intention” of distributing them. At least $6,000 also was reported missing from Restoration Church Camano, where he worked after leaving Oso.
He was charged Oct. 5 in Island County Superior Court with first-degree theft. There are three counts, each alleging aggravating circumstances because they involved a position of trust.
While Ray was charged earlier this month, speculation that he stole the money had been around for a while. Ray was fired from the Oso church months after the landslide, though other church leaders never offered a public explanation for his departure. He was actually arrested for the theft last year, but law enforcement officials allowed him to go free while they gathered more evidence. Now he’s back in custody and his fate may lie in a judge’s hands.
If he’s found guilty of first degree theft — which involves stealing more than $5,000 — he could be punished with up to ten years in jail on top of a $20,000 fine.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Larry for the link)