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Christian Science Church Leader to Serve 11 Years in Prison for Embezzling Millions

The former chairman of the board of a Los Angeles Christian Science church has been sentenced to 130 months in prison and ordered to pay back more than $11.4 million he stole from the church.

Charles Sebesta, 56, of Huntington Beach pled guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and bank fraud in February 2020 in connection with stealing more than $11 million from the Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, Los Angeles, $34,000 from a private high school where he worked, and royalties from a song for which the church owned the rights, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Sebesta started working at the church in 2001 and by 2005 was its local chairman, a position that gave him control of the church’s finances.

The case said that for more than a decade Sebesta funneled payments from the church to fake company bank accounts that he had opened, and also falsely recorded payments made to him as donations or as earmarked for environmental remediation, the Times reported.

He also took the proceeds from the $12 million sale of a church-owned property on Hollywood Boulevard for his personal use, court records show.

Sebesta used the money he stole to buy a $2 million home and a membership to an exclusive Disneyland club, among other personal expenses, per the Times.

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.