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updated: 7/10/2012 5:56 PM

Aurora pastor back in jail on higher bail

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  • Howard Richmond

      Howard Richmond

 

Aurora pastor Howard Richmond should be able to make it to church this week -- as long as he can come up with $10,000 to get out of jail.

A DuPage County judge upped the embattled minister's bail by $100,000 on Tuesday after hearing the latest in a series of charges alleging financial misconduct.

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"I'm concerned about the continuing allegations," Judge Blanche Hill Fawell said, calling the newest charges "disturbingly similar" to older ones.

Richmond was awaiting trial on charges he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from three men, including a member of his congregation at Life Reach Ministries Worldwide in Aurora, when he was accused in June of paying $114,000 in church rent with a bad check.

Assistant State's Attorney William Wu said the amount stemmed from a settlement Richmond had reached with his landlord over back rent. He said Richmond persuaded a business acquaintance to cut the check for him until he could transfer funds into the church account. In exchange, he agreed to put $130,000 in the other man's account, though the money never arrived, according to Wu.

Defense attorney Mike McMahon disputed the prosecutor's account, arguing his client's acquaintance has a history of financial schemes involving churches.

"The state's case isn't nearly as strong as they believe," McMahon told the judge.

Richmond, 51, of Naperville, was first accused of conning three men out of more than $470,000 two years ago for the supposed purchase of his storefront church at 4054 Fox Valley Center Drive. Among the victims was a then-60-year-old doctor and church member who alone put in $400,000, prosecutors said.

Also charged was a former Naperville bank employee who admitted taking bribes from Richmond to fabricate documents making it look as if his church account already had millions. The former banker pleaded guilty in December and has agreed to testify at Richmond's trial.

Richmond was taken into custody Tuesday after Fawell increased his bail.

McMahon said his client should be able to post the additional $10,000, or 10 percent, necessary to be released. The pastor also must prove to the judge that the money did not come from ill-gotten gains.

He returns to court Aug. 22.

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