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Compton pastor accused of embezzling $800,000 in church funds

The Rev. E. Joshua Sims of Double Rock Baptist Church has been arrested after an 11-month sheriff's investigation. He allegedly used the money to pay for personal luxuries.

August 20, 2009|Alexandra Zavis

A Baptist minister was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of embezzling more than $800,000 from the church he leads in Compton to pay for personal luxuries, including an expensive car and swimming pool, officials said.

The Rev. E. Joshua Sims, 47, pastor at Double Rock Baptist Church in Compton, was taken into custody without incident about 9:30 a.m. at his home in Corona, said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Sims' arrest concludes an 11-month sheriff's investigation, Whitmore said.

Between March 1, 2000, and September 30, 2008, investigators believe Sims diverted more than $800,000 in church funds into a personal account, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the county district attorney's office. When church members raised questions about his finances, Sims allegedly used his sermons to threaten them, she said.

Investigators believe Sims used the stolen funds to purchase a Mercedes-Benz and to build an indoor pool at his home, Whitmore said.

He is scheduled to be arraigned today in L.A. County Superior Court in Compton on charges of grand theft by embezzlement, money laundering and witness intimidation. Prosecutors will request that bail be set at $1.2 million, Robison said. If convicted, Sims faces up to seven years in state prison.

Church officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

According to a report that appeared in the Compton Bulletin last year, Sims stunned members of his congregation when he admitted at a Sept. 14 meeting to taking thousands of dollars a month in "household allowances" without first obtaining the approval of the church's executive board of directors. Sims was said to have also divulged that more than $1 million was missing from church coffers.

According to the church's website, Sims is a California native who was raised in Compton and was active in the Double Rock Baptist Church. Before he was installed as pastor in 1998, he served on the usher's board, sang in the choir, taught Bible studies and was cast as the scarecrow in a church production of "The Wiz, Gospel Style."

Sims was ordained as a minister in 1983 and has preached at several other churches in Los Angeles County and elsewhere in the country, according to the website.

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alexandra.zavis@latimes.com

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