A New York City pastor who was arrested and charged with petit larceny for allegedly pocketing money from his church’s offering nine times complained to police officers after his arrest that the church was not paying him enough, a prosecutor said in court Tuesday.
Rev. Daniel Impaglia, who pastors the Evangelical Rock Church on the Upper East Side and was arrested in November 2015, is still leading services at the church despite calls from some church elders that he step down after members caught him on hidden camera repeatedly stealing from collection envelopes.
After Impaglia was arrested on Nov. 24, The New York Post reports that he told a cop that he was underpaid.
“They don’t pay me enough,” a prosecutor quoting Impaglia as saying during an Tuesday court hearing.
Impaglia has been accused of stealing from collection envelopes nine times in less than a month, according to NBC New York. Although a faction in the church want him to resign from his position, he has refused to do so and showed up the following week to conduct church services.
Impaglia organized a meeting at the church on Sunday in an attempt to change the church’s bylaws and even barred some of the church’s board members who want him ousted from attending the meeting.
According to the New York Post, Impaglia proposed a change that would have allowed current church board members to chose future board members, a move that opponents claim is designed to give Impaglia more control at the church.
During the meeting, a number of congregants who want Impaglia removed from the church for his alleged thievery and misuse of church funds attempted to enter the sanctuary during the meeting but met resistance in the lobby.
A man named Floyd Johnson, one of Impaglia’s friends who is also a preacher at a church in Brooklyn, acted as a make-shift security guard blocking the door that leads into the sanctuary.
When congregants Sue Cruz, Joseph McGee and Prasad Venigalla, the church’s current board director, tried to enter past Johnson, he wouldn’t let them enter without instigating a shoving match between Impaglia’s supporters and opponents.
After a few minutes of tussling in the lobby, churchgoers were finally able to enter the sanctuary, confronted Impaglia, called for his ousting and protested his proposed bylaw amendment.
The confrontation between churchgoers and the pastor turned into a large shouting match, where Impaglia ripped the microphone out of one of his opponent’s hands.
“You’re not authorized! This is not a valid meeting,” Venigalla yelled at the pastor.
After the initial shoving match in the church lobby, at least eight police officers were called to the church to restore peace, but no one was arrested.
“I thought he would have a little bit of shame,” one church board member told a local NBC station. “It’s not like we are suspecting theft, we have videotape of him actually stealing the money and putting the money in his pocket.”
“It’s shameful because this is a church, but we are not going to have wolves in sheep’s clothing running the show and abusing the sheep,” the board member added.
Venigalla and other congregants have been in the midst of a two-year-long civil lawsuit against the pastor on the grounds that he misused church funds. The judge refuses to let the church fire the pastor, even after he was caught stealing and was criminally charged with larceny.
Board members became suspicious that Impaglia was stealing from the church after he was hospitalized for three weeks. During his three week absence, board members claim that donations from their Sunday and Tuesday collections nearly tripled.
The church then set up a hidden camera in the church office to catch Impaglia in the act. The footage showed that Impaglia repeatedly went into the church office and pocketed cash from offering envelopes.