TYLER — Police say a Tyler pastor took money from an elderly couple and also opened bank accounts without consent from his previous church to pay personal bills.
Jerome Rocky Milton, 65, was charged Oct. 2 with two counts of credit or debit card abuse against the elderly and one count of property theft between $2,500 and $30,000. He remained Friday in the Smith County Jail on bonds totaling $550,000.
Milton is the pastor for Open Door Bible Church in Tyler, and according to his arrest affidavit, he was helping take care of an elderly couple at church and had the power of attorney and finances for them.
The Tyler police investigation began when the couple’s son heard two church members say Milton was misusing his parents’ bank cards and getting them to sign blank checks.
According to the affidavit, the investigation showed multiple debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals from the elderly husband’s bank card. The detective said multiple checks were written from the couple’s account to Milton and his personal and church accounts.
He repeatedly used the couple’s money to make personal payments on his own behalf, according to the affidavit.
Bank records and receipts showed the elderly man’s card was used to make a payment on Milton’s account with an auto repair shop. Records also showed Milton used the man’s card to pay for a loan at a used car business, the affidavit states.
When questioned about using the couple’s money to make his vehicle payments, Milton at first denied it. When shown the receipt, a detective said Milton could not explain it, the affidavit states.
The document also shows Milton used the couple’s bank cards to withdraw cash between March and July. The cash withdrawals totaled about $3,800.
A detective said Milton could not explain how the withdrawn cash was used for the couple’s benefit. Milton told the officer the elderly man liked to keep cash in his wallet as a reason for the withdrawals, the affidavit states.
During the investigation of the couple’s bank cards, the detective learned Milton was previously the pastor at Greater New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Tyler, which was originally Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
According to the affidavit, Milton was asked to leave around 2018 by church membership because of “his handling of finances and other suspicious behavior on his part.”
Texas Bank and Trust records showed Milton deposited two checks totaling $5,000 written to him in August from an American State Bank account named Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church. The checks were signed by Martha Roane, the affidavit read.
However, that American State Bank account was closed in 2018. Before Texas Bank and Trust officials were notified, Milton withdrew cash and paid bills with a portion of that $5,000, the affidavit read.
The closed account at Texas Bank and Trust had a negative balance of $2,991. When Milton wrote the first check of $3,000, the account balance was $21.29, the document stated.
The detective spoke to Kermit Lane, a current deacon with Greater New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, who said the church did not write Milton those checks or any checks since he left the church about three years ago. He also said Greater New Pleasant has never had a bank account with American State Bank, according to the police document.
Lane told the detective that Roane died earlier this year, and she was Milton’s personal secretary while at the church. At that time, she had no permission to sign any checks written from the church or make any financial decisions for the church, the affidavit states.
Milton gave the police a document showing church trustees voted to allow him to open bank accounts in the church’s name. The account, which was closed in 2018, had several donation checks written to the church deposited during the year it was open. Several checks also were written from the account and it was used to pay personal expenses such as cable bills and house rent, the affidavit states.
Lane later told the detective that Milton’s document allowing him to open the bank account was false, and Milton was only allowed briefly to access a church bank account to assist with payments for a building while he was pastor. A Texas Bank and Trust official told the detective the bank wanted to prosecute Milton, according to the affidavit.
Milton was coach at Bishop Gorman Catholic School in Tyler for more than two decades. He led the school’s boys’ and girls’ track and field teams to 10 TAPPS state championships.
In 2018, the track at the school’s McCallum Stadium was dedicated as the Rev. Jerome Rocky Milton Track Home of Champions.