HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - A former Hot Springs church secretary was arrested for stealing more than $140,000 from the church. Police say he cooked the books for more than four years.
The church pastor says the secretary worked at the church a long time and he had no idea this was going on.
The Leonard Street Baptist Church pastor says the congregation has about 60 members in attendance on a good Sunday morning. He says it wasn't until last year a problem with money was noticed.
Pastor Jimmy Holland has been the head of Leonard Street Baptist Church for the past few years. He says he was shocked when he realized funds were missing in the summer of 2016.
"Two things happened, one lady went to go cash her check and one of my checks bounced," said Pastor Holland. "We're supposed to have all these thousands of dollars to discover, but no we didn't."
Hot Springs Police arrested former church secretary James Martin Wednesday. Martin was in charge of the finances for many years.
"He was there before I got there. I don't know how long exactly. 6, 7, maybe 8 years in length," he said.
A police report says an independent accounting firm found that more than $140,000 was missing over more than a four and a half year period.
"I've been a pastor for a long time and have dealt with a lot of other issues. This is the first to deal with a money situation," said Pastor Holland.
Holland says the church is slowly bouncing back, "We really took a big hit. A lot of our assist were gone that we discovered, but people just jumped in and given above and beyond. Anytime we needed something god always provided."
Martin is now facing a felony charge, but the pastor says his congregation has forgiven the former church secretary.
"We have prayed for the family and ask the viewers to continue to pray for the Martin family and also pray for the Leonard Street Baptist Church during this most trying time," said Pastor Holland.
The pastor says the church has tried to get in touch with Martin. He has not responded. Our news crews tried to go by the house listed for him. He no longer lived there.
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