The former church business administrator who stole more than $1.2 million from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair over nearly a decade was sentenced to federal prison this week on tax fraud charges.
David Earle Reiter, 52, formerly of South Park, pleaded guilty to tax fraud in December and was sentenced Tuesday by Senior U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose to serve 30 months in federal prison and pay more than $1.4 million in restitution to the IRS.
The federal indictment against Reiter filed in September stems from his personal income tax returns in which he did not claim the embezzled money while also not filing the church’s quarterly payroll taxes to the IRS for several years. Federal authorities accused him of not paying $805,117 in employee payroll taxes from 2016 to 2018, while also misrepresenting his personal income taxes from 2014 to 2018.
He pleaded guilty Dec. 9 in federal court to 11 counts of willful failure to pay or collect taxes and five counts of filing a false income tax return.
“In his role as the Church’s Business Administrator, Mr. Reiter abused his position of power by embezzling funds that could have otherwise been used by the Church to carry out their mission”, said Thomas Fattorusso, the special agent in charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation.
Reiter had already pleaded guilty to state charges last January in connection with the theft of church funds during his 17-year tenure as administrator that culminated in his arrest in February 2019. Local investigators in Allegheny County accused him and his wife, Connie Jo Reiter, 46, of diverting church funds to their private bank account and even concocting a fake auditor to hide the theft.
David Reiter was originally sentenced to 10 to 20 years on the state charges, but it was reduced in September to five to 10 years. Connie Jo Reiter pleaded no contest in September to felony receiving stolen property and conspiracy to receive stolen property, and was sentenced to serve three years probation. Both were ordered to pay $979,406 in restitution to the church.
Connie Jo Reiter is not facing federal charges, but she filed a federal lawsuit in January against the church and Allegheny County agencies claiming she should not be required to pay restitution.
David Reiter’s 30-month federal sentence handed down Tuesday runs concurrently with the state sentence, although he will now begin serving time in federal custody before finishing the remainder of the other punishment in a state prison. It was not known if the $979,406 restitution to the church for the state conviction would be applied to the $1.4 million owed to the IRS in the federal case.
His attorney, David Chontos, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
David Reiter had served as Westminster’s administrator since 2001, handling all aspects of the finances for the church, including payroll, transfers between accounts, paying vendors and bank reconciliations. The couple was accused of taking $1.227 million from the church, either through fraudulent bank transfers or use of a church credit card.
A review of the bank account the Reiters had with PNC Bank revealed numerous large deposits each month, starting in December 2011, marked as “payroll Westminster Pres,” and the unauthorized transfers added up to $979,406 through November 2018. David Reiter also had his own Bank of America credit card for legitimate church expenses, but spent $229,316 on non-church related items, such as sporting goods, medical expenses, concert tickets, gasoline, car washes and music streaming services. Another $18,700 in checks issued by the church was deposited into the couple’s account.