MOREAU -- The lawyer for a local pastor who police say pilfered more than $400,000 from his former employer said Thursday that his client admits taking some money, but that the amount was nominal and would be repaid.

Jason LaPierre, 35, and a pastor at River Church in Kingsbury, was arrested on Wednesday after police say they linked him to the theft of at least $406,000 from the Hudson River Community Credit Union in Corinth.

His attorney, Mike Mercure, said LaPierre denies taking that amount, but that he admits to stealing $4,000 to $5,000 from the bank while working there over the last four years - money he now intends to repay.

LaPierre appeared in Moreau Town Court on Thursday to face felony charges of second-degree grand larceny and first-degree falsifying business records. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on his own recognizance.

He did not respond to repeated questions from a reporter as he entered and left the courtroom.

He did not speak during the brief hearing, which came a day after he pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment.

State Police said on Wednesday that LaPierre was arrested after an investigation and an audit showed he had written false and duplicate checks while working at the bank over the last four years, later depositing the checks into accounts he controlled at other banks.

A statement provided by credit union Chief Executive Sue Commanda states bank officials began looking into LaPierre's activities in December after he was found entering inaccurate information on his timecard.

Vendors complained they had not been paid, though records discovered by bank officials showed otherwise. Further investigation showed a pattern of misappropriation by LaPierre, who was hired in May 2006 as a marketing specialist.

According to Commanda's statement to State Police, an audit found LaPierre stole $39,000 last year, $225,000 between 2008 and 2009, and $108,000 between 2006 and 2007. A more thorough audit is under way to determine the exact amount bank officials believe was taken.

It's unclear how the checks were deposited without the bank's endorsement, and Commanda said in her statement that she is concerned someone at the other banks may be involved.

State Police Investigator Robert Stampfli said on Thursday that authorities are still investigating that possibility.

Court records show at least two of the checks were deposited at a First Niagara branch, but Stampfli said several banks were involved. He would not name the banks.

Authorities have not said what they believe LaPierre's motivation may have been or how the money was used. If it is not recoverable, the bank is insured against theft, and no member accounts will be affected, according to bank officials.

Mercure, LaPierre's attorney, said he, too, was unsure what LaPierre's rationale may have been.

"He's obviously very sorry that this happened and is ready to deal with this head on," Mercure said.

He said it appears LaPierre's family had no prior knowledge of the alleged thefts.

The 35-year-old served as a pastor at the Kingsbury-based River Church on Green Barn Road, where neighbors say he built a home and has lived with his family for several years.

Neighbors described him as quiet and isolated and said they had exchanged few words. The church was vacant Thursday morning when a reporter visited.

Reached by phone, at least one church member, JoAnne Parker, said the allegations are difficult to grasp.

"I am surprised, and I find it hard to believe," said Parker, who has known LaPierre since his youth and has attended the church for the last year. "I just have to believe there is more to this story because it makes no sense it all. He's never been that kind of person."

LaPierre stopped preaching at the church two weeks ago and had disclosed that he lost his job but said little more, Parker said. The church remains open, but a new preacher has stepped in, she said.

Parker said she would continue to go to the church despite the allegations.

"A person's mistake doesn't change a whole church," she said. "There are a lot of great people there."

Randy Gross, the pastor at Queensbury's New Beginnings Community Church, said he only occasionally interacted with LaPierre but also described the alleged behavior as out of character.

"What I know of him, he seems to have a normal, healthy family," he said. "It's truly a tragic thing if he did commit the crimes - that he fell to that kind of temptation."

(19) comments

couldbeanybody
couldbeanybody

OH...I guess that makes it ok that it's just ONLY between 4 and 5 thousand and not 400 THOUSAND!! WHEW...I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a WHOLE LOT better about this now.

gf12801
gf12801

of course he will not say he stole more money the less of the amount the less of charge he will get.

sasquatch
sasquatch

The credit union's auditors will tally up the fraudulent checks and review the books. They will find out the truth. Maybe the alleged thief is trying to do damage control, and his lawyer is doing what lawyers do.

cityres
cityres

yeah!!! he is sorry for what he has done!!!!! He is sorry he got caught!!!!

randyinadk
randyinadk

So he admits to taking money from a bank - just not so much as people say. Hard to call this wrongful accusation. I say investigate every single cent he has spent and compare it to his legitimate income for the last several years. Then draw conclusions. Are we really supposed to believe someone that says "I'm dishonest - but not that dishonest. Trust me". I read about a guy that spent almost a year in jail for stealing a pack of hot dogs. And please, spare us the pleas for understanding and forgiveness. I don't want these people believing that they can get away with this stuff. Time to pay up.

Doubter_2
Doubter_2

This is getting interesting. It is not unusual for a company to 'bluff' an employee caught stealing into quietly resigning and making restitution by inflating the amount stolen to make the charges seem overwhelming. But this type of bluff usually takes place before the police are involved. Is it possible the accused knows the bookkeeping at the credit union is so bad they will not be able to prove the actually amount missing? If the credit union is correct about the amount then sentence him hard. But if the credit union starts to waiver about the amount missing... then they better come to a quick settlement and clean up their own internal problems. As someone said earlier... over $400,000 missing does seems like an amount they should have caught sooner rather than later. BTW I wonder who handles the church's finances? And you also wonder if a previous employer is re-checking their books as well.

rdc
rdc

oh, well... since it's only several thou and he's REALLY, really sorry, let's just forget about it. What's next on the agenda?

tweiner
tweiner

Does it really matter 1$, 1,000$ or 1,000,000$, if you’re a thief you’re a thief, and you deserve to go to jail.

gf12801
gf12801

of course he is going to say he took less money that means a lesser charge !!!!!!!

larry666
larry666

From my previous experience with people who cause car scams and embezzle money from land lords they get off civilly by filing bankruptcy for their crimes, the people who loose are the victims.

common sense
common sense

The lord giveth and the lord taketh away.

couldbeanybody
couldbeanybody

WOW...I must say that this is the FIRST TIME we in the "PEANUT GALLERY" have ALL been on the same page in regards to our opinions!! I thought we would get some bleeding hearts on here feeling sorry for the guy!!!

Edited by staff.

brian
brian

I think a lot of people would like their financial situations to be such that $4000 was a "nominal" amount.

blackbart
blackbart

Psychiatrist to Willie Sutton...Willie why do you rob banks?


Willie: That's where the money is. :0)

ZENCI2
ZENCI2

[quote]tweiner said: "Does it really matter 1$, 1,000$ or 1,000,000$, if you’re a thief you’re a thief, and you deserve to go to jail. "[/quote]

I couldn't agree more. We all learned from our parents that taking anything that wasn't our own was stealing, and stealing was wrong. It's just as wrong when a person is an adult, and it still doesn't matter what the amount is.

tony
tony

He remains free? Seriously? He being charged with stealing almost half a million dollars and he remains free? How disgusting. He's getting special treatment already. I won't be surprised if he's told to pay back the $4,000-5,000 he admits he took and does no jail time.

Sceptical Mass
Sceptical Mass

The devil made him do it. (someone HAD to say it)

Isn't the term supposed to be Minister? Preacher shoulds like something from "Little House on the Prarie."

the hermit
the hermit

From politicions [government officials] down to babysitters doing it and getting caught daily and some never caught for years, how can an average man know who and when to trust anybody. What a country we are turning into now that we all are under Chinease finantial control. In a few more years if we make it past Dec 2012 the USA will be like the countryside of China and average citizens will be working in sweat shops for nothing. We have progresses ourselves from rags to the toilet. The rich will inherite the earth, the meek will do all the work.

Where are the Wall St. "banksters" who deliberately sold rotten paper twice - once to a "homeowner" who had 0 chance of meeting the mortgage obligation - then resold trash (though AAA rated) paper to unsuspecting investors including Fannie and Freddie? (Rhetorical!)

They're off on their yachts w/ their $10,000,000 bonuses & continuing enjoyment of their $450,000 Bush/Republican tax cuts. They'll be back w/ big $ contributions to those Reaganomics-style tax cutter/deregulation salesman so influential w/ Limbaugh or Fox "news."

Who suffers now? Workin' Joe 6-pk. Who benefits from GOP gov't control? The wealthiest (in US top 1% own 35%+ of it all - bottom 80% "share" just 28%). Joe ALL TAXES considered, yours go up automatically, when the wealthy pay less.

If substantiated, allegations vs. the accused here will likely result in doin' time. The brokers continue doing business, though a token 14 have pled guilty to illegal trading. Why? Less jail time likely.

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