A Zanesville pastor admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from his own church.

Ron Welch
Muskingum County Prosecutor


Friday, June 21, 2024

Zanesville Pastor Confesses to Fleecing Church Flock, Fraud

A Zanesville pastor admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from his own church.

Anthony E. Thomas, age 41, of Zanesville, appeared before Muskingum County Court of Common Pleas Mark C. Fleegle on June 17. Thomas pleaded guilty to one count of felony telecommunications fraud.

On October 10, 2023, law enforcement took a report from a representative of the Coburn United Methodist Church in Zanesville, alleging that the pastor had been using church funds without the church council’s permission.

According to the church representative, the councilmembers had reviewed church financial records and found that funds were missing.

Beginning on September 1, 2021, Thomas spent about $7,400 using the church’s credit card and transferred an additional $2,500 to himself via check. The council’s findings had been confirmed by an audit performed for the church.

Additionally, the church representative told law enforcement that members of the council had asked Thomas about the discrepancies, and he admitted to using the money for personal use.

Thomas later wrote an apology letter to the church council, claiming he had intended to eventually repay the money he stole from the congregation.

During the hearing, Muskingum County Assistant Prosecutor John Litle read a letter from United Methodist Church Hocking River District Reverend Mark Chow. In the letter, Chow asked that Thomas not be required to pay for the audit, indicating that the cost of reviewing the church’s finances and discovering Thomas’ theft was considered a church expense.

Thomas has since been reassigned to a United Methodist Church in Brooksville, Ohio. His sentencing will take place at a later date.

Litle says Thomas’ embezzlement and theft are serious crimes that hurt his congregation.

“When a pastor steals from his congregation, the money comes from the pockets of church members, many of whom make serious sacrifices in order to be able to donate to the church,” Litle said. “Luckily for the Coburn UMC, their board was on top of this matter almost immediately. In most cases of embezzlement, we see the losses amount to far more, over far greater a time. It is up to a church to handle things internally as they choose. My office takes these matters seriously, and for that reason Mr. Thomas will be headed to prison on account of his thieving.”

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Zanesville Pastor Confesses to Fleecing Church Flock, Fraud