WILSON, N.C. — A former pastor in Wilson County is under arrest on fraud, larceny and embezzlement charges.
On Aug. 24, 2004, fire crews were called to handle a blaze at Benjamin Martin's home. Fire officials ruled the fire as suspicious and later concluded that the fire was intentionally set. Authorities said Martin lied about some items that were supposedly destroyed in the fire and committed insurance fraud.
They also said a similar incident happened in October 2002, when Martin had reported to the Wilson Police Department that someone had broken into his home and had stolen numerous items. However, investigators later determined that some of the items reported by Martin as stolen were actually in possession of a person in Fayetteville.
Martin is also charged with embezzlement, larceny and other charges stemming from his five-year tenure as pastor at Grace Missionary Baptist Church.
Investigators have charged him with stealing from the church after members found suspicious credit card charges.
"We started looking into that and didn't suspect it to be the former pastor. We opened up a police investigation and they started uncovering things that led to Pastor Martin," said deacon Chairman Steve Strickland.
Martin left the church in July. Church members said they are united in trying to move past the betrayal.
"There's been no vengefulness, no hatefulness -- a lot of sorrow and a lot of prayers for Pastor Martin and his family," Strickland said.
Martin now lives in an apartment and is in the process of selling his house. He has not been charged with arson in the house fire.
Martin did not want to comment about the charges to WRAL. His attorney, Elliot Smith, said Martin is cooperating with police and trying to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible.