Jeff Parham of Harvest Bible Chapel is Reported to the Elgin Police for Embezzlement, and Why James MacDonald Will Likely Not Allow a Full Audit

Jeff Parham was reported to the Elgin Police by Harvest Bible Chapel for suspected theft. The original case report was given to The Wondering Eagle. Despite what is said about performing an audit its this blogger’s belief that James MacDonald doesn’t want a full audit given the financial problems at Harvest Bible Chapel. 

“There are crimes that, like frost on flowers, in one single night destroy character and reputation.”

Henry Ward Beecher 

“Crime has always been a regrettably consistent element of the human experience.”

Mark Frost 

If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.

Ephesians 4:28 NLT

Grain field in Montana 

There is news with Jeff Parham the former Chief Information Officer for Harvest Bible Chapel and allegations of embezzlement. Let’s start by looking at the facts of the situation. 

 

Jeff Parham is Reported to Elgin Police for Investigation 

Jeff Parham was the Chief Information Officer for Harvest Bible Chapel. I do not know how long he was at Harvest Bible or what his professional career was beforehand. He developed the IT protocols and was in senior leadership. Jeff was also on the Executive Leadership Team. The embezzlement was alleged to have gone on for a year. What this blog has learned is that Jeff Parham was having financial problems. According to sources he was brought to court by Wells Fargo where he was rendered to pay $1953.09 and $350 for attorney fees and $308 for court costs. Now I do not know if this was for a credit card, personal line of credit or another type of loan. He was suspected by church leadership of possibly stealing money. Parham was confronted and let go. The situation was reported to the Elgin Police where you can read the case report in JeffParhamTheft_PoliceReport.

On October 23, 2018 Harvest Bible Chapel sent out the following email to the church. The situation with Jeff Parham was included in the first bullet point.  

Last week, we discovered evidence that a non-ministry member of our staff who worked in operations defrauded the church of an amount of money. If the evidence proves true, this would lead to a criminal charge being filed, and a preliminary report was filed today with the Elgin police department. The amount of money in question appears to be less than 1% of our annual budget and the time period appears to be less than a year. This person has never led any public ministry in our church and is on leave pending the completion of this investigation. We are looking to lay leaders and outside expertise who will work with our insurance on maximum recovery of funds. A full report will come to the congregation as soon as the investigation is complete and the facts are fully known.

 

Why James MacDonald Doesn’t Will Likely Not Allow a Comprehensive Audit Performed 

Here is the problem with the Jeff Parham situation. First of all as I analyze the situation one thing that troubles me is that Harvest Bible Chapel did not disclose how much money was stolen from the church. Harvest worked at trying to minimize the situation by saying it was 1% of the budget. In the police report it claims $270,000 was likely stolen.  The way that email talks of the problem of stolen money almost indicates that Harvest views money as their own. It doesn’t belong to the church or the members of those who have given it. That is troubling for me. Harvest should have stated how much money was stolen but they did not take that course of action. The church in the email did not say how much money was stolen and yet in the police report its clearly stated. Harvest Bible, I believe, is doing damage control in the congregation. If I were giving money and I learned that the organization I was giving to tried to sweep the situation under the carpet I would be deeply troubled. Another concern is that how could an employee embezzle that amount of money for such a long period of time? The situation shows how lax Harvest Bible is about finances. If that were to happen in other circumstances strict controls that would be in place would trigger internal responses. This situation I believe shows how lax the finances are in the organization. 

Here is another issue that I think should be raised. In my opinion I believe that James MacDonald doesn’t want a full and comprehensive audit done. A full audit will raise more questions about the finances of Harvest Bible Chapel. Its my belief that a full and comprehensive audit will reveal that $270,000 is a minor problem compared to other financial issues at Harvest. After all if you read the David Wisen letter over at The Elephant’s Debt it opens up by talking about how Harvest Bible Fellowship was $270,000 in the red. How could that $270,000 be noticed but not $270,000 from the Jeff Parham situation? Plus according to the Wisen letter auditors were not allowed to see a bank statement, check, or any supporting data. Harvest Bible would not do an open and transparent audit.  It is this writer’s belief that in regards to the Jeff Parham situation that Harvest Bible will talk about an audit but in the end will not do an audit. Why? Well James MacDonlad doesn’t want the true financial condition of Harvest Bible Chapel to be known. After all consider, that recently I wrote about how James MacDonald squandered $20 million dollars in, “Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin, “General Contractor James MacDonald”, and $20 Million Dollars of Wasted Money in Steel.” If Harvest is going to move to recover the money lost through fraud by Jeff Parham, will Harvest move against James MacDonald to secure the money that was allegedly lost through waste, fraud and abuse? In light of the Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin situation, $20 million sounds like a good place to start if Harvest is going to recover money.

 

Analysis from an Accountant Desired

This blog is requesting if an accountant can look at this situation with Jeff Parham and offer their feedback. Some of these issues with Harvest Bible Chapel involve financial issues and I am happy to defer or let someone speak to the situation. If you have done audits or finances for a company how does the Jeff Parham situation stand out? 

8 thoughts on “Jeff Parham of Harvest Bible Chapel is Reported to the Elgin Police for Embezzlement, and Why James MacDonald Will Likely Not Allow a Full Audit

  1. Thanks for this analysis. I feel it would be helpful if you corrected the blog to have the correct name throughout. Is it Pelham or Parham?! You’ve used them interchangeably.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Auto correct in spelling kicked in. I just made the changes for Jeff Parham. Also the name is misspelled in the Elgin Police report. Plus the report describes him as a white male. Jeff is African-American. This is a mistake by the Elgin Police department. But auto correct kicked in and I saw the errors. Thanks for correcting me.

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  2. As a CPA, I have investigated and discovered fraud in my career. Fraud usually occurs when there isn’t proper “check and balances,” meaning, a process that has more than one person checking the work done by another. For example, if someone handles cash, another should be present to assure the cash is accounted for properly…or another reviews the receipts to assure all the cash is there. There are also standard processes used by most businesses…such as dual signatures on checks, bank reconciliations, a secondary approval of expense reports, etc.

    I suspect that because Parham was on the XLT, and that group runs largely unchecked, he didn’t have those checks and balances placed on him. And as a former member, I know that the XLT are not people you question. So, the theft could go on for a long period of time, and even if suspected, you would need to know with 100% certainty of the theft before mentioning it to leadership.

    If I were to guess, it would be very easy for the CIO and XLT member to invent fake invoices for expense reports, and approve them for payment to himself. And since he was so high up, and there are only a few members of XLT, he could approve his own things without question (even though it isn’t good checks and balances) it would look legit to an auditor and be hard to discover. A CIO would have a lot of expenses flowing in and out of his/her office at any given time, and as long as he kept the amounts resonable, they would not stand out.

    Something you may not know…the XLT is a “superior” group of elders that actually make the decisions. The rest of the elders have little power, other than in name.

    Further, last summer the CFO, Fred Adams, resigned amidst the HBF debacle. I don’t know when the new CFO stepped in…but that is a prime opportunity for someone to get away with things. More than likely, it was the new CFO, who has an audit background, who discovered the theft as he either added new checks and balances, or as he reviewed the books.

    Something also to add…audits do not always discover theft. In fact, they often do not…which makes the checks and balances so very important. Audits only take a sampling of transactions and check the backup. A place like Harvest has literally thousands of transactions a year. So, if you sample even 5%…there is 95% that has not been checked. It would be impossible to do so. Audits look for red flags…like poor accounting practices…and if they see that, they will dig further. As long as Harvest’s accounting is good, an audit will give a good report. So, in my suggested theft, they would need to see the back up invoice, identify it as fake, and trace it to Parham. That might not be as easy as it sounds.

    I hope that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I am also a CPA. In addition, I spent a few years doing forensic accounting. From my past experience, fraud is not caught in a matter of weeks or months. It can go on for years. So to surmise that the church is very lax with it’s money because a smart man was able to do this for a length of time is just giving an opinion and not a valid one at that. The fact is, fraud happens, it can even happen in a church (large or small). And I have to say, the forensic accounting business hasn’t gone away and continues to get business. What does that tell you?

        I do agree with a comment by another CPA, there should be checks and balances. I did auditing for years and harped on that. But many companies have controls in place and still have fraud.

        Then, I find it quite disturbing for you to “give an opinion” on what James MacDonald thinks. Then to continue on with your “beliefs.” That’s what causes division, when people take their opinions as fact and try to get others to believe the same thing. If you are going to make a strong statement, it should be made on concrete facts, not what you think someone else is thinking. That’s the problem with The Elephant Debt, and now you are quoting from it as though it was factually based. It, too, is just opinion with many holes.

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    • Thanks for this.

      Can you explain why HBC would place Mr. Parham on leave rather than fire him, especially if he confessed to the theft (as Mr. Tatum said he did in the police report)?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. SCOTT SEABOLT HIRED BY HARVEST PER THE POLICE REPORT on Parham Case. This guy has strong opinions against expanding common sense child sex abuse victim protections. Could this error filed police report be a slick way for Harvest to again burry intentions when shelling out big$ for an attorney who has made public comments against child abuse protections?

    Read the interesting position stated by Harvest’s handpicked attorney for the “embezzlement” case and draw your own conclusion

    Turns out he is AGAINST!!! making volunteer coaches maditory reporters of sex abuse.

    Turns out his is AGAINST!!! extending statutes of limitations on sexual predators because it would put Non for Profits at “risk”

    One of those people was Scott Seabolt, a member of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Police Athletic League.

    While he said he supports efforts to protect the victims of sexual misconduct and child abuse, making coaches mandatory reporters would have a “chilling effect” on potential volunteers by placing them at an increased risk of liability.

    Seabolt also said extending the statute of limitations for a period of 30 to 40 years would expose non-profits to civil liability.

    “It’s almost counterintuitive to create a law that specifically targets volunteers and places them at an increased risk of liability by virtue of their volunteerism,” Seabolt said.

    “Moreover, by specifically targeting volunteers involved in scholastic and recreational activities, the proposed language creates a disincentive for volunteers to support organizations like Detroit PAL.”

    Surprise Surprise…

    https://www.wlns.com/news/expert-weighs-in-on-house-changes-to-nassar-inspired-bills/1210865072

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