A retired pastor is accused of stealing more than $357,000 from his former church in Pittsburgh. The Rev. Wayne Peck, who led Community House Presbyterian Church for 40 years, faces charges of theft by the unlawful taking and receiving of stolen property.
Peck, who turned himself in Tuesday morning and then bonded out of jail, has a hearing scheduled for May 13.
Retired Pastor Faces Theft Accusations
According to court documents, Peck, 70, allegedly diverted funds from Community House on an ongoing basis after his 2017 retirement. The day before he departed, say investigators, Peck designated himself, his wife, and a member of a defunct nonprofit organization associated with the church as the only authorized signers on the church bank account. (This third individual was not a church board member, as reported by some media outlets.) As a result, no other church members had access to that account.
Afterward, large checks payable to Peck were issued every month from the church account. Then, according to the criminal complaint, he deposited them into a personal account and used the money to pay living expenses. Official say Peck and his wife, Molly, used the funds to pay their mortgage and utilities, vehicles, restaurant meals, and travel expenses.
The memo lines on many of the checks indicated the money was reimbursement for expenses. But Peck, who was hired by Community House back in 1977, reportedly had no further affiliation with the congregation after he retired.
Peck’s neighbors say the retired pastor keeps to himself.
How the Alleged Theft Was Discovered
The Pittsburgh Presbytery, which has financial oversight of local Presbyterian congregations, discovered “irregularities and delinquencies” in the church’s accounting back in 2019. Court documents indicate that the Presbytery’s investigation yielded several red flags, prompting it to then contact police. “Substantial funds designated for the church in recent years were not actually received by the church,” the Presbytery noted.
In a statement, the Presbytery said: “The members of the Commission are deeply saddened by this situation and pray for God’s justice and healing for all who are involved. There are no allegations of wrongdoing against the current pastor or leadership of the church. The Commission will continue to work alongside the church’s leaders and is cooperating fully with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office in its investigation.”