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Investigation Finds No Insider Wrongdoing in Florida Baptist Convention $700K Loss

The investigating committee determined no staff members had played a part in the theft, however, it recommended protective measures.

The Florida Baptist Convention subcommittee charged with investigating financial fraud that was discovered in May has reported they discovered no criminal activity by any Baptist staff member.

Photo courtesy of the Florida Baptist Convention

More than $700,000 was stolen from the Florida Baptists through cybertargeting. Federal and state investigators are still working to find the perpetrators, and the convention is hoping to recover the stolen funds.

While the subcommittee discovered no wrongdoing by the convention staff, it did make several recommendations to strengthen financial protocols to prevent such targeting in the future.

Recommendations include implementing data security controls, increasing awareness when carrying out financial duties, and seeking accreditation by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

The stolen funds in this case were meant for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention, which partners with the Florida Baptists in church planting.

However, in the midst of the process, the Florida Baptist staff received an email that claimed to be from NAMB, requesting funds be sent to a new account number. The fraudulent email reflected “a general knowledge of the communications and practice between the SBC entity and the convention.”

Tommy Green, the executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, said this was the first time he has had to deal with a crime of this nature during the course of 40 years of ministry experience. “Everything we do is built on trust,” he said. “I’m sorry. We will move forward. We are better, and we’ll continue to get better.”

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The Florida Baptist Convention is far from alone in its experience. According to MinistryWatch’s quarterly survey of Christian ministry executives, 16% say the ministry they lead has experienced financial fraud or a cyberattack in the last 12 months.

Of the ministries that experienced a financial or cyber-based crime, about 31% said the crime was perpetrated by someone outside the organization. Six percent said an insider committed the offense.

Green said churches are learning from the convention’s experience, and it recommended churches implement steps to protect themselves. They include:

  • Training staff to recognize suspicious emails and other cyberattack forms,
  • Using multi-factor authentication logins,
  • Verbally verifying requested payment changes by vendors or employees,
  • Inquiring about coverage available through church insurance in the event of a cyberfraud attack,
  • Hiring a cybersecurity professional to analyze the church’s information technology infrastructure and security.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Why does MinistryWatch report on financial fraud in the church?  We report on them because one in three churches will be victimized, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. We also report on them because these crimes have real victims and cost taxpayers and other stakeholders billions of dollars every year. Even small crimes in small churches have huge consequences. We also report on them to remind our readers that they do not have to be victims. There are steps you can take to prevent financial waste, fraud, and abuse in your church or ministry. To find out more, click here.


Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and coaching high school extemporaneous speaking and debate.