TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A local pastor is accused of taking money from an elderly couple and stealing from his previous church.
According to Smith County jail records, 65-year-old Jerome Milton was arrested Oct. 2 for theft between $2,500 and $30,000 and two counts of credit or debit card abuse against the elderly.
Milton’s bond was set collectively at $550,000 and he remains behind bars.
Credit/Debit card abuse against the elderly charge
An arrest affidavit for the credit or debit card abuse alleges that Milton repeatedly used an elderly couple’s money to make personal payments on his own behalf.
The affidavit states that Milton, since May 2021, was caring for and had power of attorney for an elderly couple at Open Door Bible Church in Tyler where he is a pastor.
According to police records, Milton asked two other church members to help take care of the couple. One of the church members “became suspicious of Milton’s motives and activity” in regards to the couple’s finances and notified the elderly couple’s son.
The son reported the suspicion to the Tyler Police Department, which sparked the investigation.
Detectives collected bank statements and bank account information on the elderly couple. According to police records, a detective found multiple debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals from the couple’s bank account using their bank card.
In the arrest affidavit, the detective said they also found multiple checks written from the couple’s bank accounts and deposited into Milton’s personal and church accounts. The detective said they learned that Milton had the couple’s bank cards at that time.
The detective reported that on May 20, the couple’s bank card was used to make a vehicle payment on Milton’s account in the amount of $250 and a receipt showed that the payment went to Milton’s loan on a 2009 Chevrolet Suburban.
Then, according to the affidavit, money from the couple’s account was used to make a vehicle payment on Milton’s account with a used car shop for $551.25. A receipt showed that the payment went to Milton’s loan on the Chevrolet.
The detective also mentioned in the affidavit several ATM transactions from March through July, with the total amount of withdrawn cash totaling to $3,800.
“Milton has been unable to provide me with evidence of what he may have possibly used that cash that was withdrawn from their accounts on that would have been for their benefit,” the affidavit said.
The affidavit for the theft charge states that the detective learned during their investigation that Milton was a pastor at Greater New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church (previously Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church) and asked to leave around 2018 from the church “due to his handling of finances and other suspicious behavior on his part.”
The affidavit goes on to state that Milton opened a bank account for the church in February 2017 and closed it in May 2018 with a negative balance of $398.05. While the account was open, “several donation checks written to the church were deposited and several checks written from this account for Milton’s personal expenses such as cable bills and house rent.”
While reviewing bank records, the detective stated that they found two checks deposited in Milton’s account written from a bank account of Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church, one for $3,000 and one for $2,000. Both were deposited in September 2021 and signed by his former secretary Martha Roane, according to the affidavit.
A deacon with Greater New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church told detectives that the church did not write Milton those checks or any checks since Milton’s departure. He also said the church has never had a bank account with the particular bank Milton took money from. In addition to that, he advised that Martha Roane had been dead since earlier this year.
According to the deacon, Milton never had the authority to open a bank account for the church in the first place.
Milton has a long history in East Texas, being a pastor at Greater New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Tyler previously and the head track coach at Bishop Gorman for many years. He won 10 state championships in an eight-year-period from 1999-2006.