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Lawyer Says Pastor Accused of Stealing is Sorry

A pastor charged with stealing nearly $14,000 from the Fisher Chamber of Commerce is repentant and plans to repay it all, his attorney said.
( [email protected] ) Jan 01, 2007 06:49 PM EST

CROOKSTON, Minn. (AP) - A pastor charged with stealing nearly $14,000 from the Fisher Chamber of Commerce is repentant and plans to repay it all, his attorney said.

The Rev. Michael Eminger was charged in Polk County last week with eight counts of felony theft. Polk Count Attorney Greg Widseth alleged that Eminger took $13,923.12 from the Fisher chamber over nearly four years while he was its treasurer.

"He is going to pay the full $14,000," defense attorney Don Kirchner said. "If they say it was that much, that is what we are going to pay."

Eminger was pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in the town of Fisher, 10 miles southeast of East Grand Forks, from 1997 until he resigned this fall after being confronted about the missing money.

"Mr. Eminger understands that the life and activities of a pastor must be above reproach, and he understands that he obviously breached that requirement. ... Whether he ever will be able to serve again as a pastor is unknown at this time, Kirchner said.

Kirchner said Eminger will repay the entire sum before appearing in court Jan. 17 in Crookston. He said the county attorney has not given Eminger any deal.

"It was a terrible error in judgment, a breach of trust, and a violation of the law in which he engaged," Kirchner said in a statement e-mailed to the Grand Forks Herald on Friday. "He takes full responsibility for his actions and is truly sorry for them. And he understands that he must answer to the authorities for what he has done."

The $14,000 is a large sum for the Fisher Chamber of Commerce, which normally raises and spends about $4,000 a year, said its president, Sue Meyer, who first confronted Eminger about the missing money.

Kirchner said he didn't know what Eminger used the money for, or why he took it. But he said some of the checks involved "were intended as legitimate reimbursements" and that Eminger didn't realize the total amount was so large.

Eminger and his family moved away from Fisher more than a month ago and are now living in Wisconsin near relatives, the Herald reported Sunday.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod put Eminger on "restricted status," meaning he can't serve an LCMS congregation as a pastor pending the outcome of the case, said Don Fondow, of Park Rapids, district president of the LCMS.

© 2006 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.