Naperville pastor pleads guilty to stealing more than $1.6 million intended for Aurora church

NAPERVILLE – A Naperville man pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $1.6 million worth of donations and investments intended for his church expansion, according to DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin.

Howard Richmond, 52, of 2939 Brossman Ave., entered his plea in front of Judge Blanche Hill Fawell.

Richmond was the pastor of Life Reach Ministries, a storefront church in an Aurora strip mall. Richmond portrayed himself as a successful pastor who showed members of his congregation and other supporters bank documents stating that he had millions of dollars in the bank, according to Berlin's office.

From October 2009 through June 2010, Richmond solicited funds from his victims claiming he needed the money to expand his church. In return, Richmond promised a repayment, and frequently a significant premium. In all, his victims loaned him more than $1.6 million to fund his plans. However the bank documents Richmond showed his victims were fake, his church was in debt, and his victims received negligible or no repayment of their loan.

“Mr. Richmond took advantage of the generosity of others to line his own pockets,” Berlin said in a news release. “He betrayed the trust placed in him as pastor of the church, leveraging his victims’ faith to the tune of more than $1.6 million."

Richmond’s next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 9, for return of the pre-sentence report. He faces a possible sentence of up to 14 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.