Pastor charged with stealing government funds from school

MILWAUKEE -- 40-year-old Pastor Gregory L. Goner of Franklin is charged in Federal Court with stealing government funds from Excel Academy.

Attorney James L. Santelle has announced that a federal grand jury has indicted Goner with various theft and fraud counts.

Goner, who is the pastor at Spirit Governed Baptist Church (SGBC) in Milwaukee, operated Excel Academy, a Milwaukee choice school, from 2004 through the spring of 2010. The academy was supported through government funding. Officials say the school received over $100,000 per year in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education and Agriculture.

The indictment alleges that Goner used funds meant for Excel Academy for various purposes unrelated to the school's educational mission. Counts one through four of the indictment charge that Goner misapplied the school's funds for his purchase of two apartment buildings, paying a deacon at SGBC, and needlessly leasing space at SGBC.

According to the federal indictment, Goner transferred over $800,000 from the school to the church between 2004 and 2008. Some of it was used to pay employees who did very little work, and some of it was used to lease Cadillacs for himself, his wife and his mother.

Excel Academy was a choice school from 2004-2010.  The indictment says at times the school was unable to pay its employees or contribute to their health insurance in a timely manner.  A neighbor tells us the church, Spirit Governed Baptist Church on W. Lloyed Street in Milwaukee, is now mostly vacant.  She did not want to share her name but said, "Just for funerals and basic stuff, not what it used to be."

If Goner is convicted he is subject to a fine up to $250,000, imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both. Also, a mandatory $100 special assessment and not more than three years of supervised release on each count.

This case was investigated by Special Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Education. The case is currently being processed by Assistant United States Attorney Mel S. Johnson.

A woman who lives next to what was Spirit Governed Baptist Church and knows Goner says in the last few years, the church has been mostly vacant. "Just for funerals and basic stuff, that's it. Not what it used to be," the woman said. The woman says she was shocked to hear about the indictment against Goner. "Taking from the kids and community - it's sad. It's bogus," the woman said.

FOX6 stopped by the northside home listed to Goner Wednesday. Someone was inside, but when they saw FOX6, they closed the blinds and wouldn't answer the door. There was a Cadillac parked outside the residence.