Ex-pastor sentenced for embezzlement

A former executive pastor of Faith Church in New Milford was given a five-year suspended sentence Aug. 15 after acknowledging he had embezzled more than $220,000 from a car wash owned by officials of the nondenominational megachurch.

Judge Susan Reynolds in state Superior Court in Danbury agreed to a plea deal reached in June by David Valentine with the state's attorney's office.

Valentine, 47, received a five-year suspended sentence and five years of probation on three charges of first-degree larceny. He must pay restitution of $93,651.28 in monthly installments and obtain counseling.

If two payments are missed, he will be found in violation of his probation. Valentine has already repaid nearly $130,000, according to court documents.

A call Aug. 15 to Valentine's residence was not returned.

The New Milford resident stole the money from Squeaky's Car Wash on Newtown Road in Danbury from December 2007 to June 2008.

The car wash was owned by Faith Church pastor Frank Santora Jr.; his father, Frank Santora; Pastor Rick DuBois, who is the younger Santora's father-in-law; and two men who became silent partners after the business began experiencing financial problems.

The younger Santora was on vacation Thursday and unavailable for comment.

Other members of the Faith Church clergy declined to comment on the case, citing a request by Santora.

Valentine didn't put money into the car wash venture, but served as the operating partner. He embezzled the money by writing checks to fictitious contractors or builders who had not actually done any work at the car wash, endorsed the check himself and deposited the proceeds into his own account, according to Danbury police who investigated the case.

In other cases, he made out checks for more than the amount of work done and had the contractors kick back part of the money to him, according to investigators.

Valentine had previously sought accelerated rehabilitation on the charges, a disposition that, if granted, would have imposed a period of probation and cleared the arrest from his record.

His attorney, public defender Mark Johnson, argued a criminal conviction would have cost Valentine, a contractor who he said builds "high-end homes in Fairfield County," his state license and leave him unable to repay his victims.

Prosecutors objected and another Superior Court judge turned down the request earlier this year.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322