A South Jersey pastor was released from jail Sunday, after being charged with four counts of theft for allegedly forging a dead parishioner’s signature.
Mark Anthony Rassman, pastor of the Mount Pisgah A.M.E. Church of Haddonfield, NJ, got the deeds to four properties owned by a deceased church member, forged her signature on the documents and signed the buildings over to himself, according to police.
The woman's daughter saw the signatures and reported him to the police. Rassman then turned himself into authorities.
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Mount Pisgah is currently undergoing renovations after a fire destroyed the 126-year-old church two years ago. The congregation had began building a new church, but had to stop when they ran out of money, according to the Courier-Post.
Rassman said at the time the church's insurance company paid enough to erect the building's shell and put up the old steeple, one of the few things that survived the fire. Since then, the congregation has been trying to raise the $307,000 needed to finish the building.
The pastor didn't waste any time getting back to his congregation after being released from jail. He held services Sunday as usual at a nearby Haddonfield church.
After the services he spoke to reporters about the fraud charges.
"We will have our day in court and I assure you that I have done nothing illegal or unethical in my capacity as pastor of Greater Mount Pisgah Church of Haddonfield," Rassman said in a prepared statement Sunday.
Members of the church in attendance for Sunday's services spoke out in support of Rassman.
"We all love our reverend. He's a great pastor and we'll go through hell and high water, you understand, to make sure that he's exonerated of all these false charges against him," said church member Jerry Butler.