County Council candidate ‘shocked' with arrest in missing church - - Columbia, South Carolina |

County Council candidate ‘shocked' with arrest in missing church money

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Todd R. Newman (Source: Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center) Todd R. Newman (Source: Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center)

A Sumter man arrested late last week for allegedly stealing more than $150,000 from an area church is out of jail and denies the allegation.

"I didn't do anything wrong," said Richard Todd Newman, 49, of 420 Winter Creek Road.

Newman was arrested Thursday and charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent after he supposedly stole $155,869 from Plaza Church of Christ in Sumter. He was given a $100,000 surety bond Friday and was released from the Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center on Monday.

Newman, who said he was "shocked" Monday with the charge, did not wish to comment further until he speaks with his attorney because the investigation is ongoing.

According to a Sumter Police Department incident report, the investigation into missing money started in 2008 when a senior elder of Plaza Church of Christ said the church staff was contacted by a local bank concerning a delinquent mortgage payment on the church building. Following a church audit, it was discovered that about $400,000 was either misappropriated or was missing during a seven-year period when Newman was a finance director at the church.

"The investigation has been ongoing since 2008, and we received additional information in the case," said Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark. "The information we have is relevant to make a probable charge in the case. We are still working the case and additional charges may be forth coming."

The police report said unauthorized checks made payable to Newman or business associated with him was discovered during the church's audit.

WIS-TV found Monday that this is not Newman's first legal encounter with Plaza Church of Christ.

Court documents show that Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co. paid the church $10,000 on Nov. 10, 2008, as the policy limit for employee dishonesty. The plaintiff stated that Newman, on or near Dec. 21, 2007, took funds from the church without permission. The civil lawsuit was later dismissed after Newman said the statute of limitations passed since the action was filed in court in December 2010.

At that same time, Newman said in his defense response, "I had authority to conduct business for the church, including loans, mortgages and any other accounts necessary. … This made it necessary at times to make personal loans to the church."

Newman also blamed church leaders in the civil lawsuit for negligence in overseeing church business, which he said was the reason for the accounting issue in 2008.

Newman has not been a church member at Plaza Church of Christ for about five years, according to the church's current preacher Stewart Schnur. The recent arrest, Schnur said, has not affected church attendance.

"The contribution was normal, and our attendance was up just a little bit (on Sunday)," Schnur said.

Police are also checking into Newman's involvement as a volunteer firefighter and as a member on the Sumter Crimestoppers board since he had access to fundraising money in both organizations.

Newman is listed as a petition candidate for Sumter County Council District 5. According to his campaign finance report, he did not list income and benefits; however, he listed himself as an owner of Mid-State Prosthetics, a realtor with ERA-Wilder Realty and a partner with Triple N Farms. To date, he loaned himself about $1,000 to his campaign and has received $375 in contributions.

Newman's first court date is set for Nov. 9. If convicted, he could serve up to 10 years in prison.

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