A Tennessee Comptroller's Office investigation has resulted in the indictment of Carolyn Mullins and her son, William "Larry" Mullins, who a state investigation determined stole more than $83,000 from Peakland Baptist Church in Meigs County.
When a fire destroyed the church's sanctuary building in February 2019, members decided to rebuild using $189,000 in insurance proceeds, which were issued as three separate insurance checks in mid-March and late April 2019. The checks were deposited into the Peakland Baptist Church bank account on March 15 and May 1, and church officials signed a contract to build a new sanctuary for $118,000 in late May 2019. By that September, $95,000 had been paid to the contractor. Later that month, work stopped due to a lack of funds.
Carolyn Mullins and Larry Mullins were serving as church secretary and church treasurer, respectively, for the four-member church at the time and were the only authorized signatories on the church bank accounts.
At the time construction ceased, there were large sections of metal siding to cover the outside of the building that had not been installed, electrical and plumbing work was unfinished, and the outside walls and roof were open to the elements. After the work stopped, the Mullins' hired someone to install heating and air conditioning units and ductwork at a cost of $12,244.36, even though the building could not be locked or protected from the elements. At the end of December 2019, the church checking account balance was $25.77, and on Feb. 11, 2020, the account balance of 77 cents was closed, and the church had no money left.
Peakland Baptist Church reportView
Two years after the building project began at Peakland Baptist Church, the interior of the building is still exposed to the elements, birds roost in the ceiling joists, and sawdust covers the floor. Members have continued to tithe, and the church has continued to pay the utilities and other operational expenses while meetings occur in the church fellowship hall.
In total, investigators said the Mullins stole $83,710.82 from Peakland Baptist Church and its members. Most of the funds were stolen through internet transfers and withdrawals from the church bank accounts to their personal accounts, according to investigators. They also wrote church checks for cash to themselves, and they made personal purchases at Walmart for items such as gift cards, cigarettes, cash back, a ring and clothing, investigators said.
The Mullinses have transfered $12,221.31 back to the church, but a balance of $71,489.51 is still owed, records show.
The Meigs County Grand Jury indicted William Larry Mullins on one count of theft over $60,000 and Carolyn Mullins on one count of theft over $60,000.
The investigation into the Mullins' involvement with the church's finances was completed pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 8-4-209, which was passed by the General Assembly in 2019 and allows the comptroller's office to assist district attorneys general and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in the investigation of private funds if the comptroller deems the investigation to be in the public interest.
"It's a best practice for churches to have someone other than treasurer reconcile the monthly bank statements and review financial activity," said Comptroller Jason Mumpower. "Separating financial responsibilities reduces the risk of errors or fraudulent activity."
Contact Kelcey Caulder at email@example.com.