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Search warrants reveal new details about former pastor and treasurer arrested for church embezzlement

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 3:40 PM EDT
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Search warrants obtained by WECT shed more light on the circumstances leading to the arrest of a former pastor and his ex-wife on embezzlement and conspiracy charges.

Arrest warrants for Ransom Wade McLamb, Jr. and his ex-wife, Wendi Wishnefsky McLamb, were issued Wednesday. Wendi was served the same day the warrant was issued and made her first appearance in Brunswick County Court on Thursday. Wade was served in New Hanover County on Thursday and released on a $100,000 unsecured bond.

Wade worked as the pastor of Sabbath Home Baptist Church in Supply. According to search warrants, the embezzlement occurred over a period of years from 2014-2020. Church members filed a formal complaint with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office on March 8, 2021. The following day, detectives met with several congregation members to get more information about the suspected embezzlement.

“Church members report in August 2020, the pastor, Ransom Wade McLamb, Jr. abruptly resigned without reason. When Ransom resigned, Chris Cocker (Ransom’s son-in-law) was named interim pastor. In 2014, Wendi Wishnefsky McLamb assumed the secretary and treasurer responsibilities of Sabbath Home Baptist Church until she left the church in November 2020. When Wendi left the church, church members were left with little documentation showing where church funds were spent throughout the years,” the search warrant application reads.

“When church members logged onto the church computer, they discovered all but three (3) files were deleted, a recovery program was purchased and installed in attempt to recover church files by church members. Church members began reviewing files and obtaining financial records from their banking institution (Branch Banking and Trust ‘BB&T’). Church members discovered Wendi had closed the three BB&T accounts without authorization and opened one (1) account at First Bank of Shallotte,” the application continues.

In reviewing the records, detectives say that church members learned the McLambs “reimbursed themselves for expenses without documentation or authorization.” Over the years, those reimbursements totaled more than $136,000.

“The McLambs paid personal bills with church funds (home schooling, traveling, insurance and credit cards)... without the church members knowledge,” the application continues. It also notes that Ransom McLamb was believed to have had a procedure completed in 2018 at New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) using church funds.

Detectives requested financial records linked to the McLambs from NHRMC, Captial One Bank, Local Government Federal Credit Union, GuideStone Financial Resources, Truist, Verizon, First Bank, Delta Dental of NC, Allstate Insurance Company, Amazon, Apple, State Employees Credit Union, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and M2 Credit Care.

The search warrant for Amazon includes a list of more than 30 purchases in question dating from 2016-2019, ranging from a $2.12 purchase to $93.45. The Apple warrant also includes a detailed list of charges between 2018 and 2020.

The McLambs had not responded to requests for comment as of the time of this publication, but we will update the story if they do. One church member connected to the investigation declined to comment. Others did not respond to messages.

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