TAMPA — The pastor of a small Clearwater church admits in a federal plea agreement to cashing $755,900 in tax refund checks that were obtained using stolen identities, while keeping a “small portion” for himself.
Sylvester Banks Jr., 56, is scheduled to make his first appearance in court Wednesday and plead guilty to theft of government funds, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The court paper seems to characterize Banks not as an identity thief but as a middleman who helped others scam the IRS.
“He admitted that he quickly realized that these were income tax refund checks,” the document states, “and that his actions in depositing them into his account and then withdrawing most of the funds and retaining the rest of those funds were illegal.”
Banks, who comes from a family of ministers, is pastor at Bible Church of God in the Clearwater neighborhood of North Greenwood.