Former church pastor charged with embezzlement
January 22, 2022
By Jessica Mathews / [email protected]
More than three years later, the former pastor of a local church faces a felony charge for allegedly embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mark Milatz had been the senior pastor of Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church in Brighton since 2010. In December 2018, Milatz tendered his immediate resignation from the church and ordained ministers of the Lutheran Church of Missouri synod.
Earlier this month, the Livingston County District Attorney’s Office authorized an embezzlement charge of $50,000 or more against Milatz. He will be arrested on February 4.
The crime complaint states that the alleged embezzlement began on or about January 1, 2011.
A Michigan State Police investigation found that Milatz transferred money between his personal bank accounts and church accounts. He is accused of embezzling more than $250,000 from 2011 to 2018, but he cannot be charged for some earlier alleged thefts because Michigan’s statute of limitations is six years for embezzlement.
After Milatz resigned, he moved to Wisconsin. He reportedly expressed a desire to reimburse the church and settle out of court, but the church continued the criminal investigation. The irregularities came to light after the church accountant started noting unusual charges every month and became suspicious.
Milatz is accused of using church credit cards for personal gain, submitting false receipts and issuing refund checks to himself, and taking money from a fundraiser. funds for a parishioner involved in a car accident.
Milatz issued a statement of apology acknowledging his wrongdoing and that he betrayed his calling. Milatz said he struggled with anxiety and depression that led to alcohol abuse and other toxic behaviors. A report says he intends to plead guilty and is willing to return the funds.