Man accused of stealing from church appears in federal court

Marco Villarreal

Man accused of stealing from church appears in federal court

CREATED Oct. 6, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A man suspected of stealing from his own church appears in court, and so do dozens of his angry victims. The indictment went out to the man at his new home in North Dakota. Friday he returned to enter a plea before a federal judge.

Accused of pocketing more than a million dollars a former church treasurer stood his ground against the accusations he's facing not just from former members of his congregation, but the IRS as well.

"What you saw today is just the tip of the iceberg of what this guy has really done," says Alan Clark one of the parishioners.

Showing up in federal court for arraignment Greg Olsen stood before a judge and plead not guilty to several counts of wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

"It was good to see what happened today because it restores faith in the system," says Pastor Randy Foos of the Spirit of the Desert Lutheran Church.

Also making an appearance dozens of members of the Spirit of the Desert Lutheran Church. Many of them say they were scammed by Olsen when he told them to invest in church bonds that would go towards remodeling. Prosecutors also claim Olsen paid himself close to half a million dollars for brokering several mortgages under the church's name. The church says the fraud cost them to lose the building they use for worship. 

"We lost the property because of him. At one time that property was appraised at well over $3 million. We lost our $3 million property. We had it paid for and money in the bank when we met this guy, or when he came to the church," says Clark.

"We met at my house for a long time because there was no where else to meet. We didn't have the money to go anywhere so we kept it together by meeting in my living room," says Pastor Foos.

Prosecutors fought to keep Olsen detained calling him a flight risk. The IRS shared information that he left the US on July 21, 2012 and fled to Tokyo. He told authorities he's never left the country.

Temporarily detained until more evidence can show the veracity of his trips, the pastor doesn't want this trial to hold back their growth. 

"So right now I just want to see us move forward and look to the future. We have a vision and we want to build again, and we're going to," says Foos.

Greg Olsen is scheduled to appear again in front of the judge next Thursday. That's when prosecutors hope to bring enough evidence to show the court he did in fact leave the country and should be considered a flight risk. We reached out to Mr. Olsen's attorney's to which they replied no comment.