TYLER, Texas — A Tyler pastor accused of taking over $30,000 from an elderly couple through credit card withdrawals, such as for his personal expenses, has been indicted on a property theft charge.
Jerome Rocky Milton, 66, of Tyler, was indicted Dec. 9 on a charge of property theft between $30,000 and $150,000 (against an elderly individual), according to judicial records.
He was arrested on Oct. 2 and released Oct. 22 on bonds of $320,000, according to Smith County Jail records.
His original charges were two counts of credit or debit card abuse against the elderly and one count of property theft between $2,500 and $30,000.
He was arrested again Dec. 22 and released the same day for a misappropriation of between $150,00 and $300,000 of fiduciary property, according to jail records. His bond was $100,000.
The property theft between $30,000 and $150,000 charge was added after his first arrest. Records show he has not been indicted on any other charges.
Milton has a plea agreement hearing set for May 13 in the 114th District Court.
He is charged with a second-degree felony, which carries a two to 20 year prison sentencing range of punishment if found guilty.
Milton serves as the reverend at Open Door Bible Church in Tyler, and an arrest affidavit states he was caring for an elderly married couple from his church. Milton had the power of attorney and finances for the couple.
The woman has impaired memory, while her husband is completely bedridden due to an injury, the affidavit said.
According to the affidavit, Milton unlawfully took $30,881.70 from the couple through multiple check withdrawals from their bank account and ATM transactions.
A bank account in the husband, wife and Milton’s names was opened in March, and had several checks deposited, including a $2,800 COVID-19 stimulus check for the couple and a pension payment for the husband, the affidavit read.
The detective said the investigation led police to believe Milton stole the checks and deposited them into the joint account. Milton then used the funds for his own benefit, such as car payments and hotel rooms in Brownwood.
According to the affidavit, checks were written to Open Door Bible Church for $4,000 and $5,000 from the elderly woman’s bank account and placed into Milton’s account for his Center for Athletic Advising — Open Door Bible Fellowship Church. After that deposit, $5,000 was taken out as cash and $4,000 was moved to Milton and his wife’s joint account.
The checks appeared to be signed by the woman; however, she told police she had no knowledge of signing the checks, the affidavit stated.
At first, Milton told police those checks were placed in a trust at a law firm, but someone at the firm said there’s no trust at the lawyer’s office. In another interview, Milton claimed the money went toward a fence at the couple’s house in 2020; however, the information was disputed by the couple’s son and the man who built the fence, according to the document.
Another check for $500 that listed “church tithe” on the memo line was written to Milton from the elderly woman’s bank account. When police asked the couple if they had ever tithed such an amount, they said no, according to the affidavit.
Another $500 check labeled as “pastor aide” written to Milton from the elderly woman’s bank account was deposited into the couple and Milton’s joint account. On the same day, the joint account’s debit card was used for payment toward Milton’s 2011 Chevrolet Suburban, the affidavit read.
According to the affidavit, in one instance, Milton used the man’s debit card to make a car payment at a tire shop for his vehicle.
Some of the checks had memos like “bills,” “church tithe,” “church donation” or “pastor aide.” As the check writing to Milton continued, several checks ultimately deemed the couple’s accounts as having insufficient funds.
Another Tyler police investigation showed Milton opened a bank account in 2017 in the name of the last church he presided over, Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church. The account was opened without the church’s permission or knowledge. Police said Milton deposited two $10,000 checks to the church from the East Texas Communities Foundation; however, there was no evidence the money was used on the church’s behalf, the affidavit stated.
Another police document stated Milton was asked to leave around 2018 by church membership because of “his handling of finances and other suspicious behavior on his part.”
According to the affidavit, Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist does not wish to prosecute for the theft.