A former Cape Coral pastor was arrested Monday, after the treasurer at Cape Christian Fellowship Church discovered tens of thousands of dollars had gone missing over the two years that the pastor led the church's congregation.
Jeff Countryman, 44, is accused of taking over $30,000 from the church during his time as pastor there, from 2015 to 2017.
"We found that there was a pretty highly sophisticated scheme of fraud," said Cory Demmel, the church's current pastor.
He said the church's treasurer noticed financial discrepancies in the church's records in February, and Cape Coral Police began an investigation.
According to a police report, detectives found that Countryman used his personal credit cards for multiple business expenses, such as buying $2,600 worth of books from Amazon that were never delivered. Countryman then allegedly inflated the amount when he requested reimbursement.
"The way this happened isn't possible anymore, because we've improved our financial practices through attorneys and financial consultants," Demmel said.
Demmel said the experience has taught him and his congregation a lot about forgiveness.
"That doesn't mean we're OK with it," he said. "But love and forgiveness is a better way."
Countryman was also accused of stealing about $15,000 from his most recent church in Clearwater, but paid it back, and no charges were filed in that case.
Countryman bonded out of jail. His next court appearance in the Cape Coral case is December 26.