Minister Leon Piepenbrink hardly seemed concerned about the seven felony counts filed against him when he spoke with FOX 9 about the case.
“The facts will come out on that,” Pienpenbrink said. “There were some differences as far as accounting and so forth and so, we'll take care of this.”
Dakota County prosecutors filed theft by swindle charges against Piepenbrink, who is accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the Shepherd of the Hills Church in Inver Grove Heights.
Pienpenbrink worked at the church for five years where his primary role was as the Hmong Ministry Coordinator.
Investigators say Piepenbrink told his church he was being threatened by the people he was working with. He claimed he was shot at while driving down Highway 55 last June and needed money for security at his St. Paul Home. According to the complaint, Piepenbrink was reimbursed for expenses ranging from bullet proof glass to a gun.
“I probably should decline to say anything about that. There were certainly security issues, “ said Piepenbrink.
Dakota County Prosecutor Jim Backstrom said he can’t remember the last time he filed criminal charges against someone in the ministry.
“It is a rare occurrence when charges are filled against someone in the ministry,” said Backstrom. “It's our obligation to pursue charges regardless who is involved.”
Shepherd of the Hills is part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church Synod (WELS), which is the third largest Lutheran Church in the Country. In a statement, the church told FOX 9 the case was a "unique and isolated incident in which someone had direct access to synod funds without proper protocols and oversight."
Piepenbrink said he’s confident the charges will be resolved and he looks forward to continuing his more than 25 years doing ministry work.
‘It's still my church. It's still my church and I want to do right by them,” he said. “I want to settle whatever we need to settle on this.”