Report: Marion County pastor stole thousands from disabled man

Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury / David Berry, pastor of the Praise & Worship Family Outreach Center in Jasper, Tenn. allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars from an intellectually disabled man.
Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury / David Berry, pastor of the Praise & Worship Family Outreach Center in Jasper, Tenn. allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars from an intellectually disabled man.

A Jasper, Tennessee, pastor misappropriated tens of thousands of dollars of government and pensions funds intended for a disabled adult, according to the Tennessee comptroller's office.

A Marion County grand jury this month indicted the pastor, David C. Berry, on one count of financial exploitation of an elderly or vulnerable adult, one count of theft over $10,000 and one count of violation of the Computer Crimes Act.

Berry is the pastor of the Praise & Worship Family Outreach Center and the owner of The Tax Service in Jasper, according to a report from the state comptroller's office. The Chattanooga Times Free Press left a voicemail with the church seeking comment but has not heard back.

In 2011, according to the comptroller's report, Berry was appointed through the Social Security Administration to manage disability payments on behalf of an adult who could not manage his own finances, owing to his intellectual disabilities.

Berry had access to the checkbook and debit card of the bank account established to receive the government payments, and through that he was responsible for paying for the needs of the disabled adult — food, shelter, clothes and medical care, among other things.

Berry doled out $250 every other week to the disabled adult, the report said. But investigators determined Berry misappropriated more than $27,000 belonging to the disabled adult to other ends. That allegedly included $16,000 transferred to Berry's church, the report said, an amount well in excess of the periodic tithe the disabled adult had authorized.

Another $9,000 Berry allegedly misappropriated was withdrawn as cash or transferred directly into Berry's own checking account, the report said.

And Berry reportedly directed roughly $900 from the adult's checking account to dental care for Berry and his wife, as well as another $700 for repair work on his personal vehicle.

Investigators also found that Berry named himself as conservator and exceeded his authority by controlling another $366,600 belonging to the disabled adult and his wife.

There were numerous questionable purchases made using the money, including restaurant purchases, fuel purchases, various retail store purchases, a loan for a Super Bowl party and numerous cash transactions, the report said.

Contact Andrew Schwartz at aschwartz@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

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