American pastor sentenced to 35 years for stealing churches

Sunday, June 16, 2024 - A Texas pastor has been sentenced to 35 years in prison after a jury convicted him of stealing three churches valued at more than $800,000.

Whitney Foster, 56, the pastor at the True Foundation nondenominational church in Dallas, was sentenced after he was convicted of theft of property involving three local churches, Dallas County prosecutors announced.

Foster was the pastor of a small congregation that did not have a physical place to meet. Foster was accused of stealing real estate from three local churches after prosecutors said he filed fraudulent property deeds, listing a fake pastor or other church officials of the congregations from which he was found guilty of stealing property, officials said.

On the deed documents, he listed his church as the grantee in his own name. The value of the three properties totaled more than $800,000, prosecutors said.

The First Christian Church in Lancaster, Texas, Canada Drive Christian Church and Church at Ninevah were listed as the three churches that had property stolen, prosecutors said. Two of the three churches are still listed in Foster’s name.

Prosecutors said that Foster’s congregation was still meeting at one of the properties and that the third property remains embroiled in legal complications because of the pastor’s actions.

“Stealing real estate is an incredibly serious and damaging crime,” John Creuzot, Dallas County criminal district attorney, said in a statement.

“It’s worse than the theft of someone’s vehicle or other possessions. When someone steals property, we must hold them accountable because they are hurting people.”

The jury was presented evidence of seven additional fraudulent acts in addition to the three of which Foster was convicted. Foster was previously convicted of identity theft and arson, prosecutors announced.

In 2021, the pastor of the Lancaster, Texas, church learned that the congregation no longer owned the building after it was deeded to another person for $10, a Dallas television station reported.

The property, valued at $700,000 at the time, was signed over to someone else after someone claiming to be the chairman of the church deeded the building over to a non-church member for $10.

At the time, Foster told the television station that he believed the church building to be vacant.

“You can acquire a property for $10 with nonprofits,” Foster told the local news station. “The church is community property. … It wasn’t Whitney buying it. Our church was getting it. I was fixing to open up a church there.”

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