The former headmaster of SouthLake Christian Academy in Huntersville pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing millions of dollars from the school and its affiliated church and spending it on homes, vehicles, travel and other personal expenses.
Wayne C. Parker, 59, of Mooresville admitted guilt to one count of wire fraud during an appearance at federal court in Charlotte. Parker also agreed to forfeit assets worth up to $9.4 million.
He will be sentenced later. According to the plea agreement, prosecutors plan to recommend a seven to nine year jail term. The charge could have brought up to 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.
Parker was headmaster and later chief financial officer at SouthLake for a total of 18 years beginning in 1996. He also served as volunteer treasurer at SouthLake Presbyterian Church.
He and the church's pastor resigned in 2014 after a review of the school's books turned up discrepancies.
Huntersville police and the FBI began investigating and last week announced Parker had agreed to plead guilty.
Authorities say Parker took more than $9 million in school and church funds between 2000 and 2014. He spent the money on a million-dollar lake home and other real estate, luxury cars and a boat, overseas vacations, Carolina Panthers seat licenses, and even gold.
One of his first purchases was in 2000, when he was living in a trailer. Authorities say he used school and church funds to build a 3,140-square-foot house on 7 acres.
In 2010, he built a 7,000 square foot lakefront house for $2.1 million. Around the same time, investigators say, he made employees take a 5 percent pay cut, saying it was needed because of tough economic conditions.
In another case, according to court documents, Parker stole funds that had been donated by a parent in honor of a child who died.
Authorities say he also worked with an unnamed co-conspirator, who used church and school funds for personal expenses, including college tuition, medical and credit card bills and car payments.
Parker also was accused of stealing or destroying church records after church leaders became suspicious and called for an independent audit.
July 22, 2016, U.S. Attorney's office press release, "Former Headmaster Is Charged With Wire Fraud For Stealing Nearly $9 Million From Huntersville Area School And Affiliated Church"
Oct. 23, 2014, WFAE.org, "FBI Probes Embezzlement Claims At SouthLake Christian Academy"