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SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–Authorities announced on March 28 that they had charged a member of the clergy with stealing approximately $700,000 at his side job at a local repair company.
Robert Keith, a 46-year-old West Orange resident, was charged with credit card theft, money laundering, forgery, theft by unlawful taking, and unlawful use of a credit card, according to the official statement.
It all stemmed from his employment at RupCoe, the South Plainfield company where he was apparently a bookkeeper despite not being a licensed certified public accountant.
"During the investigation it was determined that the defendant, while working as the bookkeeper for a South Plainfield plumbing, heating and air conditioning company, stole the money in various amounts between February 1, 2015 and February 7, 2017."
But Keith is also apparently a pastor in Essex County, going by the name R. David Keith and serving as the public face of a Newark church. Prosecutors allege he played up his status as a "religious leader" to "add legitimacy" to his bookkeeping services.
The official statement from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO) did not mention the company that Keith allegedly victimized, nor did it indicate which church he preached at.
But it wasn't hard to figure out he was the preacher at Newark's New Ebeneezer Baptist Church, where a banner with his face is hanging from the building, according to a NBC television report.
Some people told reporters that Keith had claimed to own a car dealership, and that they never knew about his bookkeeping job.
"The investigation began after company officials discovered the thefts and contacted police," read the MCPO release.
"It has been determined during the course of the investigation that he sought to add legitimacy to his bookkeeping services by describing himself as a religious leader."
The investigation that led to the charges was undertaken by Detective Joseph Glowacki of the South Plainfield Police Department and Detective Jonathan Berman of the MCPO.
But Keith wasn't behind bars for long.
Indeed, Keith is a apparently a free man and recently hosted a "Spring Revival" event for the church, according to Facebook.
The investigation was described in the MCPO statement as "active and… continuing."
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Glowacki at (908) 755-0700 or Detective Berman at (732) 745-4328.