Charges: St. Paul Pastor Stole From Wis. Church

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.

  • Tom

    Not a Huge Surprise!

  • markH

    I believe the word is spelled “pastor.” I’m glad to see that WCCO is employing Junior High students to write stories.


    I am always happy to see this kind of exposure of Con servatives.

    • Ferris Lind

      Liberalism is a Mental Disorder . Im sorry i can’t cure you

  • Imagine That!

    What a shame to bring disgrace on the name of Christ for personal gain. This pastor (spelled with an ‘o’) approached his position as a shepherd of God’s people like a career choice instead of a calling by God. Perhaps this fellow should have been in the financial/ banking industry where he would have been sanctioned to appropriate other people’s money.

    • markH

      Perhaps Jesus (for Christ was not his name) brought “shame” and “disgrace” upon his own name by invoking the idea (no evidence whatsoever) of hell and eternal suffering to those who do not believe his message. This is not morality and is not ethical, yet people of faith have been deluding themselves for two thousand years that a vicious and bloody human sacrifice would expiate them of their wrongdoings. To myself and others who choose to think for themselves, this is just a matter of one crook stealing from another (albeit larger, legally sanctified) crook. Peace.

      • Ispeakthetruth

        MarkH as a person who believes that Jesus chose to be sacrficed for my sins, I DO NOT believe that I am exempt from being accountable for my personal choices. Regardless of religion, this man made choices that reflect who he is as a person. (greedy, deceitful, liar, thief) The good news is that we are all sinners and fall short of grace hence “the sacrifice” made by Jesus Christ. I am sad that you do not see how real Jesus is…not that I blame you, there are so many that use religion and relationship with Christ as a pawn for their own personal gain. I hope that you realize that every chrsitian is an individual and deserves to be treated as such. Ultimately we all have to stand before God and be accountable for our lives whether you belive in Him or not………..

        • markH

          Ispeakthetruth-While I sincerely appreciate your insights regarding this man, there is simply no getting around the fact that he claims to be “ordained by God” and yet his actions are no different from those who do not make such fantastic (to say nothing of unfalsifiable) claims. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover and spent 30 years of my life believing these ideas before I finally mustered the courage to step outside the religious apologies and excuses and actually ask myself some serious questions. Is there a god who can help me get a job promotion, save my marriage, and cure me of my allergies whilst allowing innocent young children to perish in floods, earthquakes, murders, and car wrecks? To say that “the ways of God are mysterious” or “beyond human comprehension” is merely begging the question. This man’s actions do not in themselves disprove any religion, but they certainly tell us that believing in the punishment of eternal torture and damnation does not thwart the temptation to steal $60K from the coffers of his deity of choice. Peace.

          • Shep

            I know I will never convince you, but I respectfully disagree. I think you are doing what so many do, and confusing compassion with justice. Yes, God is a compassionate God, and forgives all sins. But just because he forgives sins doesn’t mean that he ignores it all together. He still punishes the sinful for their wrong doings in this life. The Bible says that God is both compassionate and just. What you say is true. He can get you a job promotion, and allow millions to die in a disaster, and still be within his divine right. So you’d say “if he forgives all sin, then why do bad things still happen?” Simple. Without penitence, forgiveness is wasted. God cannot offer forgiveness to the sinner who refuses to repent, and take God up on his offer to forgive. Think of it like a parent. As a father, you love your kids (one would hope), and would do a lot of crazy things for them. But if your son steals a play station from a friend do you tell him, “Oh that’s ok.”? Or if he wants to play on the interstate, do you tell him, “You can do that. It’s safe enough.” Or if you tell him 50 times that he is not allowed to have or do something, and he talks back and yells and screams and says no 50 times, do you accept it? As a loving parent, you are both compassionate to your kid, and you discipline him when he messes up. God does the same to us. The relationship is the same. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of scale.

            The other common misconception that you and millions more have is that there is such a thing as “innocent children” (or people for that matter). According to God’s rules, there is no such thing as innocence. We are all guilty and convicted. Even Kids. So if God allows children and adults to perish in floods earthquakes and murders, don’t assume that they were innocent. For all have sinned, and if you’ve sinned even once, you are no longer perfect.

            As for your 30 years of believing Christian ideas and taking the courage to step out, I really don’t think that took courage. It’s easy to leave the church. What’s so much harder is to stay in it. But to some, staying is more important.

            I don’t know what you mean by unfalsifiable claims, and claiming incorrectly to be ordained by God, and that Jesus was not the Christ. If you are looking for evidence against this outside of scripture, I don’t know where to help you. But if you consider scripture a viable source, then I don’t know how you can claim that Jesus was not God, and did not claim to be God. For one who’s read the Bible cover to cover, I’d expect you to know better.

            As for this pastor, I do not condone his actions. He deserves to lose his position in my opinion. It is yet another example that no single person is above sin. We live in a sinful world, and it’s sadly inescapable.

  • ???

    So if the pastor is the right hand of god, maybe he was buying something that god wanted. Kind of like a errand boy. I agree with markH as well, we all should be able to see that giving money to the church is an irony since they never seem to have high expenditures, pay no taxes, receive a lot money at least 1s a week, but apparently all churches still have a leaky roof. Where does all this money go to?

    • Shep

      Have you ever seen a church ledger? Have you actually looked at the balance sheet for church expenditures and earnings? Do you actually know how much it costs to operate a church? If not, how can you say this? There are mega churches out there that make millions, but the vast majority of churches are relatively small, and don’t receive a lot of money from offerings. For many churches, it is very hard to pay expenses (salaries, utilities, education programs, sports programs, maintenance etc.) with the small contributions (my church average is less than 0.5% of membership income).

  • Murph

    To the GOP,where do you think! Thru what you pay for gasoline and other energy,high CEO salaries,taxes transferred to trusts and corporate co pays and subsidies.You name it,YOU are on the hook for it! Foreign aid ,farm subsidies , and others,as if the price of milk isn’t high enough.On and on and on and on! You own this world but don’t even know it.Israel could not exist without you,neither could dozens of other countries who are even less than accomadating to our politics and tourism!It is way past time to get these leeches off of our dole! They have not earned nor deserved it for one hell of a long time.Not one more American life should EVER be spent for any one of them.It’s their sh-t,let THEM eat it!




    Those truly acquainted with WELS teaching know that it does not consider itself a group of holier-than-thou do-gooders. It is not a surprise that church members sin just like everyone else. What is blessed to know is that sin is forgiven in Christ. That does not excuse sin in the least, and Christians who sin give offense to everyone and provide an opportunity for criticism from non-Christians. I pray this pastor is repentant and can find peace in forgiveness; but I recognize that he no longer qualifies to be a pastor, and that he should humbly bear the earthly consequences of his sin. As for those who scoff at Christianity, there will always be those, with or without cause. But that doesn’t change the truth or reality. There will also always be those who reject God because He does not conform to what they, in their self-deified wisdom, demand God should be or do. Prayerfully, as did Saul who became Paul, they, too, will come to know and trust the truth.

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