A pastor accused of stealing more than $1 million from his former church took the stand on Thursday morning to testify in his defense.
David Thompson was the former pastor of The World of Pentecost Church on East Main Street, 10TV's Tanisha Mallett reported.
Prosecutors said between 1998 and 2007, Thompson falsified tax records and stole money from the church to use for his own personal expenses.
Thompson testified that he used money from the church's building fund for his lifestyle, but said it mostly went to run the church.
Thompson said he had the authority to use the funds.
"I felt as the pastor and as the overseer I was mandated first and foremost from God and also
from the bylaws that I was to take care of the welfare of the church, and I put more emphasis on
the people versus a building," Thompson said.
Prosecutors said Thompson handled two funds at the church: the building fund, which was money for maintaining the church and the assistance fund, made up of tithes and offerings from the congregation, which was the only funding source to be used for his salary.
Prosecutors allege that Thompson co-mingled those accounts and used them all for himself.
"I did not take building fund money out from the building fund and spend it on myself," he said.
Thompson said that between 1998 and 2007 he spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal items, including four cars, private school for his children, and a boat and a pool for his house but said his spending adhered to the church's bylaws.
He admitted on the stand that he drained the church of all its money and he apologized.
"To this day I'm still very, very, sorry," Thompson said.
If found guilty, Thompson faces up to 87 years in prison.
Watch 10TV News HD and refresh 10TV.com for continuing coverage.
February 27, 2009: Ex-Pastor Accused Of Stealing More Than $1M From Church