HASTINGS, Minn. (WCCO) — A St. Paul Pastor employed by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church Synod is accused of swindling more than $62,000 from that church system, according to charges filed Thursday in Dakota County District Court.
Leon Edwill Piepenbrink, 51 of St. Paul, was charged with seven felony counts of theft by swindle. He faces up to 70 years in prison and/or $140,000 in fines if convicted on all charges.
According to a criminal complaint, Inver Grove Heights police received a complaint of theft involving Piepenbrink in August of 2010.
During the investigation, authorities learned Piepenbrink was a paster in the WELS and had an office at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Inver Grove Heights. The complaint states an official with WELS became suspicious of Piepenbrink when the pastor began reporting that he felt threatened by certain members of the community he was working in. He also filed a report claiming that he had been shot at while driving on Hwy. 55 near Hastings on July 16,2010. The criminal complaint states Piepenbrink said a vehicle had passed him and shot at his car.
Piepenbrink filed expense reports for security systems, bullet proof glass and a gun.
The WELS Minnesota District president, a person identified in the complaint as “C.D.,” looked into the reports, found that they were all fabricated and confronted Piepenbrink on the matter. Piepenbrenk admitted that he submitted fake expense reports to take money from the synod.
The criminal complaint states that from May 2007 to July 2010, Piepenbrink stole $62,500 from WELS in falsified expense reports.
Piepenbrink is scheduled to make his first appearance in Dakota County District Court on May 23.