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Cornelius News

Former SouthLake headmaster stole $9 million

Wayne C. Parker Jr., the former headmaster at SouthLake  Christian Academy, embezzled nearly $9 million from the school as well as SouthLake Presbyterian Church. Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, said a criminal bill of information was filed in federal court, charging Parker with one count of wire fraud.

Parker has struck a plea agreement and is expected to formally enter his guilty plea when the court schedules the plea hearing.

For more than a decade, church members, parents, teachers, students and donors put their trust in the 59-year-old Parker, Rose said. “Instead, Parker misused his access to the school and church’s finances, treating their bank accounts as an endless cookie jar, dipping in repeatedly to fund his lavish lifestyle,” she said.

In 2000, when he needed extra money to build a house for his family in Mooresville, Parker stole approximately $100,000 from the school and church to complete the project. Over the next 14 years, court documents allege that Parker used SouthLake funds to buy real estate, luxury vehicles, Panthers preferred seat licenses, a boat and gold coins.

He also built two homes, one costing over a $1 million.

Parker then went to “great lengths to conceal his fraud and to prevent law enforcement and others from uncovering the truth,” said Rose.

At the same time Parker forced pay cuts for teachers during the great recession to fund his million-dollar lake home. “It takes an especially ruthless person to steal money intended to educate children and promote religion and use it to bankroll an extravagant lifestyle you’d otherwise never be able to afford,” Rose said.

According to allegations contained in filed court documents, Parker was a chronic embezzler from about January 2000 to about August 2014. The funds paid for his personal expenses and those of an unnamed co-conspirator.

Parker joined the church in 1991.  Court documents allege that sometime after joining SouthLake, he became volunteer treasurer, giving him access to and control over the church bank accounts. In 1996, Parker was hired as headmaster of the school, which was founded in 1994 by members of the church.  As headmaster, Parker was responsible for the administration of the school and its finances and had control over its bank accounts.

As alleged in filed court documents, beginning in at least 2000, Parker began stealing money to pay for personal expenses.

According to court records, Parker opened some 29 checking accounts, obtained 26 credit cards, seven loans and created nine limited liability companies.

As alleged in filed court documents, in addition to embezzling funds for his own use, Parker also embezzled funds at the direction of an unnamed co-conspirator.  Court documents allege that beginning in 2000, Parker issued additional paychecks to the co-conspirator above and beyond what he was entitled to by the terms of the co-conspirator’s employment.  As the scheme progressed overtime, in addition to extra salary checks, Parker took money to pay for the co-conspirator’s personal expenses, including college tuition, medical bills, taxes, cars, and credit card bills.

As part of his scheme, and to hide his embezzlement activities from the school’s governing board, Parker created a false, fraudulent and fictitious document from an accounting firm purporting to be the results of an audit, court documents allege.  The document falsely stated that the school had been through a full audit and received an unqualified opinion letter giving it a clean financial bill of health.

According to allegations contained in court documents, in the summer of 2014, after church leadership became suspicious of Parker’s activities and called for an independent audit, Parker intentionally stole and destroyed financial records in an attempt to prevent law enforcement and others from discovering the nature and extent of his embezzlement activities. Additionally, Parker sold one of the houses that he had constructed with embezzled funds to one of his children, for a significantly undervalued price, to hide his crimes and prevent law enforcement from seizing that property.

The wire fraud charge carries maximum prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.  As part of his plea agreement, Parker has agreed to pay restitution, the amount of which will be determined by the Court at sentencing.

The investigation was handled by the FBI and the Huntersville Police Department.  The prosecution for the government is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Zolot of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.