Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Case # 07NF2349
June 12, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
FATHER AND SON PASTORS SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR STEALING OVER $3 MILLION FROM CHURCH OFFERINGS TO BUY PERSONAL LUXURY ITEMS
SANTA ANA – Father and son pastors were each sentenced today to two years in state prison for stealing more than $3 million from church offerings to pay for luxury items, including time shares and cars. Richard Wimberly Cunningham, 76, Moreno Valley, pleaded guilty to the court to one felony count of grand theft and one felony count of conspiracy to defraud. Philip Ladd Cunningham, 52, Laurinburg, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to the court to one felony count of grand theft, one felony count of conspiracy to defraud, and one felony count of forgery. The defendants have already paid $3.1 million in restitution to the church.
Between May 1, 2001, and April 30, 2006, Richard and Philip Cunningham stole more than $3.1 million from Calvary Baptist Yorba Linda Church and School, where both worked as pastors. The defendants stole money from church offerings and givings and used it for personal gain, including time shares in Hawaii and Palm Springs, golf club memberships, and luxury cars.
Cunningham and Cunningham had complete control of eight church bank accounts and made cash withdrawals, wrote unauthorized checks to themselves, and used credit cards that had been issued to them by the church for unauthorized personal expenses. In order to make their theft less detectable, the defendants moved money between accounts. Philip Cunningham also forged the signature of another associate pastor without his knowledge on fraudulent checks that required two signatures. Members of the church discovered the theft after noticing a discrepancy in some financial records.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Doug Brannan of the Major Fraud Unit prosecuted this case.