The former executive pastor of Sonrise Church in Clovis pleaded guilty to federal charges today in a case that saw members of his congregation and others defrauded out of more than $2 million.
Sherman Smith, 74, admitted in court to committing wire fraud and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott.
According to court documents, Smith made appeals from the pulpit, via email, and in person for money to pay off the church’s mortgage and fund an income-generating development benefiting the church.
Smith collected cash, checks, and rolled-over retirement accounts to fund the church’s project, but he did not disclose that he was using the money for personal expenses, to operate a publishing business, and to invest in foreign ventures, the release said.
This case was investigated by the FBI.
Smith is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 11 in Fresno.