CommunityPam's House Blend

Kentucky pastor going to clink for bank fraud and tax evasion

Pastor Larry bought himself a Porsche and played the ponies with church funds.

Rev. Larry Davis is going away to the Big House, sentenced to 2½ years for stealing and gambling away his church’s money. He had already pleaded guilty to lying on a loan application and didn’t pay his federal income taxes back in 2003. Here’s just a sampling of the fun Pastor Larry had with the flock of First Baptist Church of Cold Spring’s dough:

* He ran up $40,000 of debit card transactions from church accounts.
* $7,400 of that money was withdrawn at horse race tracks.
* Davis set up an account in the church’s name of which congregation members were not aware.
* Davis purchased a Porsche with church money.
* Pastor Larry drew down hundreds of thousands of dollars for his personal use from building accounts – and even withdrew money at racetracks.
* When church trustees set up a $3.5 million construction loan, Davis forged documents claiming that the church authorized a loan of $4 million — and skimmed the difference for himself.

The folks at First Baptist Church of Cold Spring still can’t believe the scope of betrayal. (

When the Rev. Larry Davis fleeced his flock, the scandal pitted family members against one another and destroyed long-time friendships and marriages.

Most of all, critics say, the former General Motors factory supervisor-turned-preacher betrayed his congregation’s trust. On Friday, Davis was sentenced to 2½ years in federal prison for bank fraud and tax evasion. Authorities said he gambled away and otherwise stole up to $730,000 in church funds over three years.

Although Ilene Shelton is still listed on First Baptist Church of Cold Spring membership rolls, the long-time member said she no longer tithes, and she hasn’t attended First Baptist in the two years since the scandal broke. “I honestly don’t think there’s a fitting punishment for something like this,” Shelton said. “I always thought that pastors were as close as you could get to God. Now I’m deeply hurt by one of the finest pastors that I have ever known in my lifetime. It’s a great betrayal.”

But Davis did good things, too. During his nearly 20-year tenure at First Baptist Church of Cold Spring, membership doubled from 600 to 1,200, and Davis was among those who helped bring the Rev. Billy Graham mission to Cincinnati in 2002. Like many families who once worshipped with Davis, Stuart Oehrle has mixed emotions. The Cold Spring resident recalls “the good Larry” who counseled the Oehrles during their young daughter’s losing battle with cancer and delivered a moving eulogy at her funeral.

“He did a lot of good things,” said Oehrle, who now attends a Christian church in Campbell County that he declined to name. “But the interesting thing is while he was doing these good things he was also stealing from the church and gambling. To this day, there are still people who will never quite trust again because of what happened with Larry. Church is the last place you expect your trust to be broken.”

Hat tip Holly.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding