FBI investigating Cleveland, Tennessee, church administrator for embezzlement

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The business administrator at a church in Cleveland, Tennessee, allegedly defrauded his employer of tens of thousands of dollars over six years, according to an affidavit accompanying an application for a search warrant filed earlier this month by the FBI.

The 25-page document, filed April 5 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, requests a warrant to search the residence and storage units owned by David Michael Apps.

"There is probable cause to believe that Apps perpetrated a scheme to defraud his employer, Broad Street United Methodist Church, by embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the church," the affidavit said.

Apps, who had worked as the church's business administrator since January 2014, according to the affidavit, allegedly embezzled money from the church between July 2014 and October 2020. Apps allegedly used church credit cards to purchase airline tickets for himself and his daughter, hotel stays, firearms and firearm accessories, as well as paying for a storage unit on East Brainerd Road.

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The affidavit said Apps was the only person in control of the church's accounts and wrote several checks to himself, according to documentation provided to the FBI by the senior pastor of the church and its board of trustees.

Apps allegedly told the church he had written the checks to pay for his prostate and brain cancer treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Erlanger hospital, even though the church had already given him money to help with his medical expenses, the affidavit said.

"The senior pastor at [the church] authorized a $3,500 payment for the purpose of aiding Apps with his medical bills," the affidavit said.

On June 7, Apps allegedly wrote himself another check for $5,150, and an additional check on July 14 for $2,875, the affidavit said. Apps later told church administrators the money had been donated to him by parishioners for his medical bills.

During their investigation, FBI agents did find that Apps had been undergoing cancer treatment at CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, however, the affidavit did not say whether any payments had been made to that hospital using church money.

Additional purchases Apps allegedly made with church funds included outdoor recreational supplies and aquarium supplies, watches and clothing, court documents allege. He also is alleged to have made large purchases for his store, FMJ Supply, of guns and accessories, which he kept at his home on the 9300 block of Mountain Shadows Drive in Chattanooga.

"Apps made over 100 charges totaling approximately $177,399 to FMJ Supply using church credit cards," the affidavit said.

Apps also purchased a John Deere Z915EZTrak lawnmower for a total of $8,100 in September, as well as a personal water craft. Both were surrendered to the senior pastor of the church in April, the affidavit said.

Several checks from the church account also were issued by Apps and deposited to a personal account Apps shared with his wife Michelle, according to the affidavit.

Apps was fired in November 2021 after a treasurer with the church discovered the alleged embezzlement and confronted Apps about it, the affidavit said.

Attempts to contact Apps and Broad Street United Methodist Church for comment were unsuccessful. The FBI did not offer any additional information regarding the case.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.