BY JAMES HARPER
A trial date has been set for a former Daytona Beach pastor who has been charged with stealing more than $54,000 from a Key West church in which he was the pastor.
The Rev. John Wesley McKenzie, pastor of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Daytona Beach from March 1995 until April 2003, is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 13 in Monroe County because of allegations brought forth by the board of trustees of St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Key West.
Similar allegations were made against McKenzie while at Greater Friendship, but no charges were ever pressed against him. He was fired as pastor of the church.
Faces up to 15 years
McKenzie had been employed by St. James as its pastor in residence since September 2009. During the period between September 2009 and July 2011, the trustees of the church said they were satisfied that McKenzie honored his contract.
In July 2011, the then financial secretary, being unable to perform her duties, gave the checkbook and financial records to McKenzie for safekeeping. McKenzie then hired Jacqueline Williams to take over the responsibility of financial secretary.
From July 2011 until June 2013, a report alleges that McKenzie or financial secretary Williams had written $121,857 in checks payable to McKenzie. This amount is $54,657 more than his allotted salary during that period.
McKenzie could face up to 15 years in prison.
State Attorney Investigator Christopher Weber provided the Daytona Times with information related to McKenzie’s case.
As part of the investigation, church members were interviewed, bank records were subpoenaed and McKenzie also voluntarily talked to the State Attorney’s office.
The report received by the Daytona Times was signed and dated Sept. 10 by Weber.
The State Attorney’s office received a complaint regarding the possible misappropriation of funds by McKenzie from the church located on Olivia Street in Key West.
Several church trustees were concerned McKenzie was emptying the bank account of the church by taking pay advances far in excess of what he was entitled. He is accused of doing so without the approval and knowledge of the church’s board of trustees.
McKenzie was entitled to a weekly salary of $700.
On pretrial release
Trustee William Mitchell said he was being asked by the pastor and his assistant Jackie Williams to sign blank checks instead of reviewing the bills and then signing checks.
According to the State Attorney report, Mitchell said he agreed to sign the checks because the pastor had asked him to do it.
During the State Attorney’s interview, McKenzie reportedly admitted taking advances to his salary and transferring funds.
On June 18, McKenzie turned himself over to Monroe County Detention Center where he was booked. He is currently out on pretrial release.