A Columbus pastor who claimed his family was robbed of about $11,000 in cash and valuables while he was preaching at church has been arrested on felony charges of insurance fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Justin K. White, 38, 3255 Sunrise Drive, senior minister at First Christian Church since May 2011, is accused of arranging with a juvenile to stage the Dec. 18 burglary at his Skyview Estates home on the city’s northeast side in order to file an insurance claim for the lost items, court documents in the case state.
White is accused of having the burglary staged to obtain money from his insurance company to pay a drug debt, court documents state. The charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor relates to White being accused of seeking to have a juvenile commit an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, dealing in a narcotic drug.
The news story of the burglary at the White home resulted in national news coverage, with White reporting the family received an outpouring of kindness from local residents and the church congregation in the aftermath.
Two Columbus police officers, friends of the White family who did not want to be identified, replaced the family’s stolen living room television the same day of the burglary with a new one they purchased as a gift. Among the items White reported stolen were coins in his daughter’s piggy bank, jewelry with sentimental value, Xbox consoles and games and computers.
“We already have prayed as a family for the people who did this,” White told a Republic reporter Dec. 19, one day after the burglary. “Really, they are the ones who are truly struggling.”
However, as Columbus Police detectives looked into the burglary allegation, they determined there were no signs of forced entry at the home. The front door and two other doors on the ground floor were unlocked and undamaged, they said. And the thief or thieves had left untouched wrapped gifts under the family’s Christmas tree.
Officers later learned after obtaining a search warrant that White made a claim for the burglary loss the same day he reported it through the Cincinnati Insurance Co, seeking $11,460.75 in compensation, court documents state.
In an unrelated investigation, Columbus detectives obtained a search warrant for the home of the parents of the juvenile who was involved, who is only identified by initials in the court documents. The juvenile told officers that he had an addiction problem and had just gotten out of rehabilitation, court documents state. After repeatedly denying that he had burglarized White’s house, he told officers, “Justin has a very bad drug problem, too, and he’s been asking me to get him things for him since I was 15 years old on house arrest,” court documents state.
The juvenile said the “things” were drugs, specifically pain pills and heroin, court documents state.
Pastor accused of staging home burglary (external - login to view)