A prominent California pastor is accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from a disabled veteran who was living in a squalid building next door to his church.
Misi Tagaloa, who leads the Second Samoan Congregational Church in Long Beach, has been charged with felony counts of grand theft and theft from an elder dependent.
He is currently free on a $70,000 bond, amid claims he used Peter Campbell’s monthly $2,900 Veterans’ Affairs checks to buy himself jewelry, clothes and sound equipment.
According to a 14-page affidavit filed by state prosecutors, Tagaloa is accused of gaining power of attorney over Campbell, a veteran aged in his 60s who suffers from schizophrenia.
The Long Beach Post reports that Campbell may have been living out of Tagaloa’s church as early as 2013.
Campbell was receiving close to $3,000 per month from the VA in benefits, and in 2016 the pastor filed for power of attorney over Campbell to manage the money on his behalf.
Over the next four years, Tagaloa allegedly received close to $170,000, and is accused of spending much of that money on ‘suspicious purchases’ including clothing, jewelry and sound equipment.
Prominent California pastor Misi Tagaloa (left) is accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from disabled veteran Peter Campbell (right) who was found living in a squalid building next door to his church
Campbell – who once served in the Air Force – left his sister’s North Carolina home in the early 2000s. He suffered from mental health issues, and soon ceased contact with his family.
Campbell’s relatives searched fruitlessly for him in the intervening years, fearing for his health and safety.
Finally, a 2017 Google search of his name connected him to the Second Samoan Congregational Church in Long Beach.
His daughter, Sounmi Campbell, got in touch with pastor Tagaloa, who was initially unresponsive. However, she finally discovered that her father was living in a house next door to the church.
After seeing him in person, relatives realized that Campbell’s mental condition had deteriorated significantly and that he was living in squalid conditions. One even claimed Campbell’s clothes were covered in feces.
They knew Campbell was receiving a monthly VA check and started asking questions about what Tagaloa was doing with the money.
‘The fact that my father is a retired, honorably discharged veteran, suffering from mental issues—you hear that story all the time—but then we add this additional, just disgusting behavior from someone who is trusted in the community – it’s just sad,’ Sounmi Campbell told The Long Beach Post.
Misi Tagaloa, who leads the Second Samoan Congregational Church in Long Beach (pictured), has been charged with felony counts of grand theft and theft from an elder dependency
It’s unclear how Campbell first came into contact with Tagaloa (pictured). The pastor is prominent in the Long Beach community, and is known for working with the homeless
It’s unclear how Campbell first came into contact with Tagaloa.
The pastor is prominent in the Long Beach community, and is known for preaching about helping the homeless. Campbell’s family theorize the pastor may have met the veteran at an outreach shelter.
Tagaloa has previously run for city council and raised eyebrows in 2009 when it was revealed that he had ‘about 80 homeless people using the Second Samoan Church as their mailing address’.
Local media wondered whether those homeless people ‘actually lived in the council district where they’d be casting a ballot’.
Tagaloa is not accused of defrauding any of those homeless people.
According to the new affidavit, investigators describe over 50 transactions with Campbell’s VA money they they have described as ‘suspicious’. They include purchases at clothing and jewelry stores.
Campbell’s family claim Tagaloa neglected their father’s deteriorating health and was only interested in spending his monthly VA checks.
Sadly, Campbell passed away in November of last year, aged in his late 60s.
Tagaloa is soon set to stand trial. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges and remains the public face of the Second Samoan Church.
Campbell’s family hope that justice will be served.
‘There’s no reason that my father had to live like that,’ Sounmi Campbell stated. ‘We needed that pastor’s help and he neglected to contact us.’
Sounmi Campbell (pictured) never gave up looking for her father. However, she was disgusted to find he was living in squalid conditions in the care of Tagaloa in 2017