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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2007
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Former church officer accused of scam
Ex-treasurer indicted in theft of $25,000 from Athens man, 77

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com 340-2355

A former church treasurer from Danville is accused in Limestone County of stealing $25,000 from a 77-year-old Athens man, the Limestone County Sheriff's Department said Friday.

The theft allegedly occurred in 2005, a few months before Decatur police said Neel Church of Christ members followed a trail of bounced checks to discover their treasurer, Steven Gene Wilson, had depleted the church's bank accounts.

Limestone Chief Investigator Stanley McNatt said Wilson, an insurance salesman, talked one of his clients into loaning him $25,000 in April 2005.

"Mr. Wilson had drawn up a promissory note saying he would pay it back on a certain date (June 14, 2005). That date came and went, and he hadn't paid. The elderly victim made contact with him on numerous occasions, but he always had some reason he couldn't do it at that particular time," McNatt said.

In late June, Wilson "approached him with a check for $30,000 and talked the victim into purchasing an annuity with him on which he would receive a fairly good interest rate. The victim agreed to do that," McNatt said.

The victim signed the check over to Wilson, but Wilson never purchased the annuity, McNatt said.

McNatt said it's unknown whether the check Wilson presented to the man was even legitimate.

The sheriff's office became involved in March 2006, and a grand jury returned an indictment against Wilson in June.

The indictment charges him with first-degree theft by deception.

Wilson, now 38, turned himself in to authorities Thursday, and Limestone County Jail later released him on $5,000 bond.

A Morgan County grand jury indicted Wilson on a charge of first-degree theft by deception in the Neel Church of Christ case in January 2006.

Wilson allegedly took advantage of his position as church treasurer by writing checks totaling at least $45,000 for personal use, a Decatur police investigator said.

Documents on file at the Morgan County Probate office show Wilson took out mortgages totaling more than $236,000 on church property. Police said Wilson forged signatures of church members to obtain the loans.

Wilson's attorney, Brian White of White and Oaks LLC, told The Daily in March that Wilson did not deny taking the money and that he intended to make restitution.

Wilson squandered the money on a severe gambling habit, White said.

Attempts to reach Wilson's attorney late Friday to learn the status of that case were unsuccessful.

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