Pastor pleads guilty to bank fraud, ID theft, laundering money through church

A South Carolina pastor pleaded guilty Thursday to bank fraud and identity theft, having used his job as a bank manager to get loans and lines of credit for elderly customers and launder the money through his church.

Tony McElveen Jr. managed a BB&T in Robeson County while also pastoring at Greater Faith World Outreach Church across the border in Florence, S.C., said a news release from U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr. in Raleigh.

McElveen used the money obtained through two customers to pay for rental cars, a home security system and hotels in Myrtle Beach. He also closed a $50,000 certificate of deposit belonging to one of the elderly victims and made payments on his delinquent mortgage.

The pastor tried to hide his financial doings by depositing some of the bank money in the church’s operating account and withdrawing it for his own use. He opened an account in the church’s name at BB&T and disguised a $28,500 loan withdrawal as a donation from the elderly victim.

“This defendant’s crime is simply despicable,” Higdon said in the release. “Whether you see it as taking advantage of vulnerable, elderly individuals, whether it’s his effort to disguise his criminal activity by using his position as a bank officer, or whether he abused his role as a trusted pastor, Mr. McElveen’s actions are beyond horrible.”

McElveen ran for mayor of Florence in 2016. One of his campaign platforms was “ban the box,” which would have kept employers from asking about criminal history on job applications.

“If a man or a woman paid (their) debt to society,” he wrote on his campaign Facebook page, “then their debt have been paid.”

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle set his sentencing for August. The pastor faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for bank fraud and a mandatory two-year term for aggravated identity theft.

Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.