HOUSTON -- A Houston pastor and his wife are in the Harris County jail charged with bilking their former congregation out of more than $400,000 and using that money for gambling trips to Louisiana.
Charles Gilford, 58, and Adriane Gilford, 53, were indicted Wednesday by a Harris County grand jury and charged with aggregate theft and "misapplication of fiduciary property."
Prosecutors allege the Gilfords used at least $430,000 in church funds to gamble at the Coushatta Casino near Lake Charles between 2004 and 2007. They were pastor and first lady of Bethel Institutional Missionary Baptist Church (BIMBC) on Selinsky Road in southeast Houston at the time.
"Over that three-year period of time as fiduciaries there, they were able to take that total of $430,000 from that little Baptist church," said Amy McCauley with the white collar crimes section of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
At that little Baptist church, a fixture in this neighborhood for decades, the current leadership told us they didn’t want to comment on the case. The Gilford’s left BIMBC five years ago.
But close friends say they have trouble believing the couple would steal from their congregation.
"And when I tell you impeccable people, outstanding people willing to help, I just, this is a little bit too much for me," said friend Regina Davis when she learned about the arrests.
"It doesn’t make sense," added her son Freddie Davis. "As far as I know, they are really genuine people, both pastor Gilford and sister Gilford. They have been courteous and amazing over the years."
But after pouring over boxes and boxes of financial records, prosecutors convinced a grand jury to indict the pair on charges that carry anywhere from 5 years to life in prison.
Adriane Gilford was also arrested by Pearland police in 2010 on a felony charge of writing bad checks in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. She and her husband lived in Pearland at the time.
Charles and Adriane Gilford are each held on $800,000 bail in the Harris County Jail. They are due in court on Monday.