A longtime Butte pastor and former official of the Pentecostal church's regional district pleaded guilty Thursday to embezzling more than $250,000 from the church.
Kenneth Hogue was charged in U.S. District Court this week with federal wire fraud for siphoning $288,757.94 from the Rocky Mountain District of the United Pentecostal Church from June 2012 until July 18, 2016.
The court filings charging Hogue were accompanied by a plea agreement setting out the terms for his guilty plea. Hogue has agreed to pay the embezzled amount back but nothing more, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Racicot said during the Thursday hearing that the Rocky Mountain District of the Pentecostal church may seek additional restitution.
During the embezzlement scheme — which began in 2012, the same year Hogue was elected to the district's treasurer post — Hogue's duties included depositing church offerings into the district's account and writing checks for church expenses. He was also authorized to pay himself for his services as an official of the district, with the main office located in Wyoming.
"I was authorized to write some checks to myself for insurance and a stipend for my service," he told U.S. Magistrate Kathleen DeSoto on Thursday. "I wrote checks in addition to that."
In addition to writing unauthorized checks, Hogue also described using the district's debit card to withdraw church funds from an ATM.
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Racicot said during the hearing that Hogue had also opened a new bank account in the name of the Pentecostal church, without permission, and transferred church funds to that account.
A $5,000 transfer caught the attention of authorities, according to Racicot. Hogue later admitted the scheme to church staff and during an interview with the FBI in March, according to court filings.
John Rhodes, Hogue's federal public defender, said during the hearing Thursday that federal sentencing guidelines may add up to a two- to four-year prison sentence for Hogue. There is no parole in the federal prison system.
Calls to the offices the Grace and Truth Pentecostal church in Butte — where Hogue worked as a pastor since 1982 —and the Rocky Mountain District seeking comment were not returned Thursday.
Hogue's sentencing hearing is set for Dec. 19, 2019, before U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen. DeSoto allowed Hogue to remain out of custody with no conditions ahead of sentencing, saying she did not consider him a flight risk or threat to public safety.