Pastor convicted of stealing elderly widow’s life savings

PAMLICO COUNTY, NC — A jury in North Carolina has found a Concord pastor guilty of stealing more than $120,000 from a family friend in the months following her husband’s death, according to authorities.

The jury convicted Thomas Wayne Steele, 63, of embezzlement of more than $100,000 and four counts of exploitation of an elder adult, prosecutors said Monday in a news release.

Authorities said Steele, a pastor at New Life Baptist Church in Concord, had gotten access to the victim's accounts through a power of attorney she had given him. Over the course of 13 months, beginning after her husband's death in 2015, Steele took more than $120,000 from the victim, prosecutors said.

The victim, now 85, testified that she hadn't authorized Steele to take the money, which prosecutors said amounted to her life savings.

In a statement released Monday, District Attorney Scott Thomas said the case highlights "the importance of being aware of our older relatives and friends."

"The defendant's suspicious activities were noticed by a relative of the victim and reported to law enforcement," he said.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge John Nobles sentenced Steele to 73 to 100 months in prison following his conviction. He also ordered Steele to pay $123,370 in restitution to the victim.