Compton pastor arraigned for embezzlement

COMPTON, Calif. Pastor /*Eugene Sims*/, 47, was arrested Wednesday after a nearly year-long investigation into embezzlement allegations.

On Thursday, Sims entered a not guilty plea to the embezzlement charges.

"I'm also a member of the Double Rock Baptist Church, where he is our shepherd. He is an excellent, brilliant teacher and also a pastor," said Dr. Virginia Reed, a church board member, in court Thursday. "I have never seen anything but integrity."

Sims took over as pastor of /*Double Rock Baptist*/ in Compton about ten years ago and has since allegedly taken over $800,000 from the church.

He is accused of setting up a private bank account and diverting offerings church members gave over a period of eight years.

Investigators say a $100,000 Mercedes-Benz was among Sims's lavish purchases. He also built an indoor swimming pool in Corona.

"Embezzlement, grand theft, money laundering and witness intimidation have been filed," said Detective Danny Coon, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

When asked what type of witness intimidation occurred, Detective Coon said Wednesday,"During the course of the investigation, I talked to church members who were threatened ... their membership in the church if they cooperated with law enforcement."

Detective Coon said the threats came from the pastor, and not from officers of the church.

"Most of the church members that I spoke to are longtime, 30 or 40 year members of the church. And several of them are deacons of the church," said Detective Coon Wednesday.

The judge reduced Sims's bail from $1 million to about $250,000. The judge ordered Sims to stay away from Double Rock Baptist Church.

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