International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 915 must have thought its benefits were in good hands. A minister supposedly doesn’t steal. Gregory Sims, however, wasn’t that kind of minister. Sims, pastor of Crossroads Church in Dade City, Fla. (Pasco County), pleaded guilty early in September in Tampa federal court to embezzling more than $800,000 from a union fund that he had managed as part of his second job as an investment services bookkeeper. He faces up to five years in prison. In addition, as part of his plea agreement, he will have to make full restitution.
Sims, 38, in late 2007 began working for a Tampa/St. Petersburg-area company, Antares Staffing, a subsidiary of Medical Mutual Services LLC. The latter firm was under contract with IBEW Local 915 to manage the union’s health, welfare, pension and vacation funds. Sims’ job was to maintain union records, reconcile accounts and issue checks. Unfortunately, he added to those responsibilities another one: theft. In June 2009, an internal union audit revealed that Sims had written 11 union checks totaling $813,142.17, each of which he had diverted to Crossroads Church. To cover his tracks, he had indicated the payees as other entities. The plea agreement read: “After unlawfully diverting the money from the IBEW Fund to the Crossroads Church accounts that he controlled, Sims disbursed the embezzled IBEW Fund money for his personal benefit and for the use of his parishoners and associates.”
Gregory Sims is a tough man to track down these days. He had been fired by Antares Staffing in January 2009, about a half year prior to the union audit. An attempt by the St. Petersburg Times to contact him proved unsuccessful. Neither his church nor his lawyer would return messages. Perhaps Sims’ congregation, assuming he still leads it, can take up a love offering.