RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Former Southern Baptist missionary Brady Nurse has been sentenced to two years in prison for obtaining nearly $300,000 in mission funds by submitting fraudulent expense reports to the International Mission Board.
Three years of supervised release will follow the sentence, handed down Jan. 21 by U.S. Eastern District Judge James R. Spencer.
Nurse, a 38-year-old resident of Bothell, Wash., pled guilty Oct. 21 to obtaining the funds in fabricated expenses from 2008-13 while working as a logistics and business coordinator for the IMB in Portugal. He resigned from the IMB in January 2014. Nurse and his wife Andrea had served as IMB missionaries since March 2006.
In pleading guilty, Nurse signed a statement acknowledging that he “routinely altered” amounts on valid documents and invoices submitted on expense reports to increase his reimbursement; “submitted fraudulent, manufactured, and/or duplicated documentation” on expense reports; “falsely represented” quotes and estimates for service from vendors as services actually provided, rather than lower amounts actually charged; altered documentation associated with household shipping charges “to obtain additional benefit from an increase shipping allowance”; and falsely obtained reimbursement for non-reimbursable expenses.
After his resignation as a missionary, the statement added, Nurse continued to seek reimbursement for “suspect shipping expenses by false statements submitted to IMB through interstate emails.” He also received nearly $21,000 in additional funds through a clerical error by the board’s benefits department and has yet to return those funds, IMB reported.
IMB became aware in January 2014 of “suspicious transactions” by Nurse related to shipping of household items from Portugal to the United States, according to court documents. IMB’s internal audit staff began a full-scale review of Nurse’s reimbursement requests, comparing them with original documents obtained from Portugal. Results of the internal review were reported to the FBI, which began an investigation.
“We are deeply grieved that one sent out to proclaim the free gift of the Gospel would violate the sacred trust placed in him by Southern Baptists,” IMB general counsel Derek Gaubatz said upon Nurse’s guilty plea in October. “IMB believes it is appropriate that Mr. Nurse face accountability for his actions and fully supports his prosecution under federal law. At the same time, IMB takes no joy in that prosecution. IMB is praying for Mr. Nurse and his family that they would experience the mercy of God in a fresh way.”
The mission board “takes its role as a steward over Southern Baptist resources given for missions very seriously,” Gaubatz said. “While both IMB’s external auditors and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) have independently verified that IMB has robust anti-fraud measures in place, IMB will be seeking their input on any additional measures they would recommend.”