Compton pastor arrested for embezzlement

COMPTON, Calif. Eugene Joshua Sims, 47, was arrested Wednesday by Los Angeles County Sheriff's detectives. He is being held on $1.2 million bail.

Pastor Sims is accused of diverting offerings members gave to the church into his private bank account. The alleged /*embezzlement*/ occurred between March 7, 2000 and September 30, 2008.

"We searched the church and Pastor Sims' home and I recovered used or old check stubs and receipts of items that he purchased," said Det. Danny Coon from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "We also were able to uncover the money trail on where the money was going from the surplus church funds into the separate accounts."

Coon says members of the church contacted him nearly a year ago. They were concerned that funds from the church were missing and got suspicoius after Pastor Sims started living a luxurious lifestyle.

"One of the things he did was he purchased a high-end $100,000-plus Mercedes-Benz. He built an indoor swimming pool to his house. He has a very elaborate house out in the city of Corona, which is a far cry from the houses you see here in Compton," said Coon.

There's nothing extravagant about the exterior of the church itself, which is partially obscured by scaffolding.

A woman who identified herself only as Kim says her aunt has been a longtime member of the Double Rock Baptist Church.

"I'm just shocked," said Kim. "But that's what happens at a lot of these churches in our community."

Sims took over as pastor of the church in 1999. Membership has since grown to about 4,000.

"Most of the church members that I spoke to are longtime 30, 40 year members of the church and several of them are deacons of the church, and they are in outrage," said Coon.

One member of the congregation that talked to Eyewitness News says she stands behind Pastor Sims. She says that he has worked very hard over the past 10 years to turn things around at the church.

In addition to the embezzlement charge, detectives say Sims is also accused of witness tampering. When some church members raised questions, he allegedly threatened them not to say anything.

If convicted, Sims faces seven years in state prison. He's scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.

Eyewitness News reporters Leo Stallworth and Robert Holguin contributed to this report.

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