published: Sunday, June 10, 2012
HCSO: Pastor stole from church
AVON PARK -- The pastor of an Avon Park church was booked into the Highlands County Jail Thursday night on four felony charges after investigators said that he illegally took more than $20,000 from the church over a three-year period.
According to arrest reports, Sammuel David Varis, 45, was added to the SunTrust bank account of the New Covenant Worship Center of Avon Park in December of 2009. The report said that Varis was "entrusted to care for the church as the pastor" and assumed the responsibility of handling the church's financial transactions on a day-to-day basis.
Two debit cards were issued on the church account, one in Varis' name and the other to James Cobb. Through 2010 and 2011, the report said, the card issued to Cobb was used for several ATM and debit transactions, although Cobb told investigators he had no idea that a card had been issued in his name.
Cobb didn't find out about the card until December of 2011 when he saw a bank statement for the church account and noticed the fraudulent transactions.
Cobb then reviewed the church and bank records for 2010-11 and noticed "a substantial number" of fraudulent transactions, and was told by the church's bookkeeper that the card issued in Cobb's name was in Varis' possession, the report said.
Cobb also noticed several checks written out of sequence that had no record of where the money had been spent as well as several occasions where cash had been taken out of the offerings before the money had been deposited in the account, the report said. Cobb told investigators that there were several times where the cash had been signed for by Varis, but there were also times where the money was missing with no record of where it had gone.
Cobb told investigators that he confronted Varis about the situation and was confident that it had been resolved to the point where Cobb put Varis' name on the church's Heartland National Bank account. No debit cards were issued on that account, but Cobb said he later found more checks were being written out of order with no record of where the money had been expensed.
Varis denied any wrongdoing when confronted about the checks, but Cobb reported that he later discovered that Varis had been again taking cash out of the collection plates.
The heavily redacted arrest report said that the investigation indicated that Varis had fraudulently used the debit card issued to Cobb, resulting in charges of criminal use of personal identification information and fraudulent use of a credit card. Varis was also charged with scheme to defraud of more than $20,000 but less than $50,000 and with grand theft.
Varis was released after posting a $7,500 bond.
stealing (by: godly knowledge - 8/13/2012)
sam varis is one slick dude who now i9s corrupting yet another church and its members check out can do ministries also affiliated with varis and china hill church
Amused (by: Secretary - 7/21/2012)
Oh the secret lives we lead! Wonder what Jesus would be writing in the sand about you, Mike Cobb?!!
Cmon Man! (by: Love em both. - 7/21/2012)
Sam was there for Mike when he was doing some stuff that he later repented of. He was loyal to him (and a good friend) even though it all happened when he was serving in a leadership capacity at the church. I wish that he would remember this and return the favor. Neither one of these guys are perfect. But thats what use to bring the whole church together. (Including Myself) No one felt the need to put on heirs. It was great! The love in the church covered the multitude of sins. Its too bad that now the opposite has torn it all apart. I dont know whats has actually happened here. There are usually three sides to every story, but its never too late to make things right.
So Sad (by: Prayalot - 6/23/2012)
This whole thing just makes me so sad. Sure wish this wouldn't have happened. But God can heal and believe it or not, he can make something good come out of this. will pray for all involved.
Grace (by: Mercy - 6/23/2012)
So now what's next when do trial or court start?
Thou Shall Not Lie (by: anonymos 2 - 6/21/2012)
If I remember Correctly the 9th Commandment is " You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor". . this is bearing false witness against your neighbor plain and simple. I don't get it. Bearing false against someone is a SIN and it doesn't belong in church.
all people sin (by: CHRISTY ANN BEALL LONG - 6/21/2012)
i just want to say i was raised w this man and i know he is no thief..preacher or not, everyone sins and everyone has weak moments...there is a reason for this just like everything...the varis family is a wonderful family of God and would fear God too much to steal from HIM.....and why be anonymous people...scared to put ur real name?....and for the so called christians, pointing fingers and bad mouthing, dont you know one sin is equal to another so ya'll are just as bad as ya'll are claiming him to be!
God Knows (by: Truthful - 6/21/2012)
God knows the truth you can't hide from him. Come clean and seek forgiveness. Then the healing process can begin. Otherwise, this continues to be one big problem & someone will go to jail.
why defend (by: Definder of the faith - 6/21/2012)
thou shall not steal (by: anonymos - 6/21/2012)
If I remember correctly one of the 10 commandments talks about stealing. this is stealing plain and simple. why would anyone defend this if there is evidence showing it? I don't get it. stealing is a SIN and it doesn't belong in church.
Stealing from Church (by: Matthew - 6/21/2012)
Wake up people. Do you really want your Pastor stealing from you and others who faithfully pay their tithes to benefit God's work Heck no! This isn't my church, but how can you defend someone who did this? Friend or not there must be some good evidence or he would not have been arrested. Do you wish he were back & taking money for himself? Like I said, Wake up Be happy this is out in the open. you Should be thanking the person who discovered it.
Sad Little man (by: Big Man - 6/20/2012)
Must have touched a nerve Little Man! So now you’re founding out your Mouth has written a check your butt can’t cash!
Little man . . . (by: For the big man - 6/19/2012)
Hey "big" man; what do you think happens after you pay for the warrant?
Cobb is a very little man! (by: Cobb is a very little man - 6/19/2012)
It's sad, but you can pay $40.00 and take a warrant out on anybody you won't too!
For Wondering (by: Responding - 6/16/2012)
Yes, he is now the Pastor for a Church in Jacksonville, GA, China Hill.
Wondering (by: anonymous - 6/14/2012)
Does anyone know if Varis was ever associated with a church in Jacksonville, Georgia?
Wondering (by: anonymous - 6/14/2012)
Does anyone know if Varis was ever affiliated with a church in Jacksonville, GA?
Prediction - Pastor Sam (by: Prediction - 6/14/2012)
I predict Pastor Sam's Attorney will not allow him to go to trial. The State's Attorney's office has an overwhelming amount of evidence. His attorney will ask him to fess up, pay up and move on. This isn't going to be pretty. The Pastor is not the only guilty one in his family. It's a sad situation for all parties concerned. It is natural for "some" of his family and "some" of his friends to believe him.
The Accused (by: Highlands County Citizen - 6/14/2012)
There are a whole lot of things being said on here and not one bit of proof to back it up. Why do you all think that a Pastor is not capable of stealing? Remember he is not Jesus, he is a man. You all are blaming the person that discovered it and reported it. I sure would want to know if my tithes were going to God or to someone's personal treasures. Just ask yourself, do the police just go around arresting people because they want to or do they have to have evidence? Of course, they have to have evidence. The people who reported this are 100% doing the right thing. Let justice be served, yes, the truth will come out.
Prediction - Pastor Sam (by: Prediction - 6/13/2012)
I predict he will not go to trial. Once his attorney studies all the overwhelming evidence, will advise him to fess up, pay up and avoid trial or he'll risk going away for a long time and start a Prison Ministry.
What a Shame! (by: Annonymous - 6/13/2012)
Why blame the men on the board because of someone stealing????? This man is no saint. I hate to bust your bubble, Sam Varis is a very slick dude that has a career of this type of behavior. Terri knows all about it and has stood behind him even when he was sinning.
Confused (by: Varis supporter - 6/13/2012)
It is obvious to me that there were absolutely no checks and balances in place with New Covenant Worship Center. As a former member of this Church I know there use to be, but when the then Church treasurer left, so did the checks and balances. Mike & Keith Cobb ARE the Church board. Why weren't you looking at and assuring that the bank statements were balanced on a monthly basis, and any discrepancies dealt with immediately? Why didn't you do the same thing with the credit card statement? YOU have a fiduciary responsibility to the Church! Where were the financial statements that should have been presented to the congregation? No, this is nothing more than the Cobb boy's being incensed that Sam was being called to another Church and them knowing New Covenant Worship Center would fall apart because Sam was the glue that held it all together. Guess you boy's will have to deal with the mortgage on that building all by yourselves now. "Bitter, party of two!!!"
Stop this (by: Stopped - 6/13/2012)
Stop right now and pray that the Lord will take control of this situation and something good will come of it. Instead of writing on here all of this negative stuff take the higher road and pray instead.
ALL CHRISTIANS (by: Pastor Eric - 6/12/2012)
This article is sad and some of the responses worse. We as christians should always pray for those in need, to often we demean and put down to make ourselves look better. I remind you that the ground at the cross is level we all fall short of God's Glory. I don't know Pastor Yaris but pray for him, his family, and the church. If you attended or attend this chutch stand strong, don't let the enemy scatter you. You need eachother. Remember God works all things for the good of those who trust in him and walk according to his purpose.
Church (by: Big boy - 6/12/2012)
This is just a big ol stinkin mess. I realize some on here are probably not Christians, but this whole thing really turns people off. The ones I really trust and believe are the Sheriff Department & the State Attorney Office. Yes, the truth will come out.
former church member (by: anom - 6/12/2012)
This church is a small church and I really hate that the Varis family has to go through this, that family would do anything for anybody. Being a former church member of the church the Varis family is not the ones who are wrong here the Cobb family needs to be looked at and at the end of all this the Varis family will be on top. It says alot for the Varis family that when Sam left the church everyone else left also except the Cobb family, whom is all the members of the church now! So most members already knew about Mike and his family before Sam is a wonderful pastor and person!!!!!!!!!
Money (by: Bible Thumper - 6/12/2012)
I guess you haven't cracked open your Bible for a while!! MONEY is not the root of all evil - It's the LOVE of MONEY!!
More checks & balances (by: Anonymous Person - 6/12/2012)
This must be a small church because there doesn't seem to be alot of checks and balances, budget committee, or a group looking over the funds. A pastor should never have total control of the funds of a church. Sounds like this church needs to revamp and review the policies, maybe see how other churches do it. Things kind of like this could happen in other churches, but there are ways to keep people honest, even Pastors! I can tell you one thing, it seems like the focus of this whole thing is MONEY, remember MONEY is the root of all evil.
crazy people (by: I dont really care just trying to be funny!! - 6/11/2012)
I think he is so guilty and it makes me giggle that you so called Christian people have your noses so far up his butt that if u seen video or pics you wouldn't be able too tell who it was cause of the single berries hanging off his butt. You all make me sick!!!
church (by: harold s. - 6/11/2012)
the article never mentioned Mr. Cobbs job at the church. how does he play a role in this, is he a church employee? I am not clear on this whole thing.
LESSON (by: CHRISTIAN - 6/11/2012)
I think that Cobb did the right thing! When he had a suspicion of the fraud, he then went to seek law enforcement to investigate it. If it is wasn't discovered, how many more times would this have happened whether this church or another church? Really-think about it !! May God keep his hand in this situation and may people learn a lesson from this experience.
QUACK QUACK (by: JUSTICE - 6/11/2012)
If you look like a duck and quack like a duck--- your more than likely a DUCK!!
WHITE-WASH LEADERS (by: BADBOYTURNGOOD - 6/11/2012)
I AM A YOUTH PASTOR FROM A LOCAL CHURCH, HERE IN AVON PARK. I HAVE NEVER, EVER HEARD OF ANYTHING GOOD ABOUT THIS CHURCH BECAUSE OF A CERTAIN POWER HUNGRY FAMILY! IT IS A SHAME! I WORK SO HARD TO BE A GODLY WITNESS TO PEOPLE, AND THEN THERE ARE CHURCHES LIKE NEW COVENANT THAT MAKE IT HARD TO INVITE PEOPLE TO CHURCH!!! THE LEADERS AT THAT CHURCH NEED TO GET SAVED!!!!!!
Preachers in a Mess (by: Monique Puppy - 6/11/2012)
I don't think that the sheriffs office would go and arrest someone, they would have to have evidence. What about all those people who gave money every week and paid their tithes thinking it was going to do the Lords work? This is sickening and just wrong!!!
Pastor in Trouble (by: billybob - 6/11/2012)
I guess the devil made him do it. What a mess!
Pastor taking money (by: Marybeth - 6/11/2012)
Pastors are people too. We all sin and fall short. The best thing to do is just admit it and I am sure he will be forgiven. What I don't understand is how someone can pretend to be a man of God, stand up and preach and steal money at the same time. Everyone looks at preachers as not sinning, but don't forget they are human. I have dealt with the local sheriff's dept on occasions and I can tell you, they are very thorough and responsible & it would take some very good evidence for them to arrest someone. It must be true.
Justice (by: Justice - 6/11/2012)
There is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed!
A Few Bucks?? Really?? (by: MJ - 6/11/2012)
This situation should remind folks why most churches have deacons who account for what is in the collection plate and a personnel/budget committe who decides what the pastor should have for wages and expenses. The pastor should not have full control over the churches resources. If your church allows for that then perhaps you should find another church to give your tithe to. Even Godly men are not perfect--just forgiven.
(by: MJ - 6/11/2012)
Probably why most churches have deacons account for funds in the plate and a budget/personnel committe deciding what is given the pastor for salary and expenses. The pastor should not have total control over the churches resources. If folks realized that he did, they may have found another church to give their tithe to. Even Godly men are not perfect--just forgiven.
wake up! (by: anom - 6/11/2012)
I just want to ask people what is acceptable for a pastor to spend church funds on? A. vacations w ghost tours B. personal furniture for their homes C. a new family pet from the humain society D. their own daughters wedding ? i was a member of this church too and i feel as bad about this as anyone. we were all decieved. go to the trial (if there is one) and see for yourself.
Someone from the past (by: Anon - 6/11/2012)
He left Georgia on bad terms. Everyone in the office was threatened with a slander suit if we answered the phones with a negative report about him.
A Sick MAn (by: Anon - 6/11/2012)
This man is a wolf in sheep's clothing. As a former landlord, I know this story is true. This family has caused so much destruction and trouble to the neighborhoods they left behind.
Witness (by: anonymous - 6/11/2012)
I was at the pastors last 2 services. One of which he asked both Cobb brothers if the reason he was leaving was because he did something to the church or stole money and both Mike and Keith Cobb said no in front of the whole congregation. Why if in December Cobb noticed fraudulent charges did he not Say anything that Sunday.
Preacher Sam (by: Friend of Sams - 6/11/2012)
Keep your head up Sam, "The truth will set you free" to a deceiving family, you sure are ate up with it, this isn't the first time the sheriffs dept has arrested people with supposed evidence, watch the deputy get set free along with the preacher." It's better to set there and be thought an idiot than to open mouth and remove all doubt."
Church Problems (by: anon - 6/11/2012)
This is such a sad story. I don't go to this church, but things like this happen in churches all the time because we are all human beings. However, it is an awlful testimony and witness to new Christians, young people and others who look up to church leaders. Law enforcement will not arrest someone without probable cause, so there must be something to it. If someone is taking money from the offering plates or bank accounts without permission from the church committee, then I am glad it was discovered. The devil is having a field day with this one!
A few bucks (by: Roy - 6/11/2012)
Whats a few bucks. He is the pastor and needs money to live. Nobody opposes Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen, and they take millions from the plate.
lies (by: annonymous - 6/10/2012)
All lies, just wish people would look more into this story. All i have to say is Sam Varis is no thief, wish i could say the same about others involved in this sotuation.
We have ur back Varis Family (by: AP resident - 6/10/2012)
This article is one sided. Who wrote this article? I see there is no name for the editor, which to me makes you wonder did this person know the Cobbs? The News Sun should be getting both sides of the story before printing. This man is innocent so when the truth comes out the News Sun needs to write about that!!!!!!!
A deceiving family (by: Someone Who Has Seen Through His Lies for a LONG time. - 6/10/2012)
Go ahead and stick your heads in the sand. He wouldn't have been arrested if the Sheriff's office didn't have proof. I'm so glad this man has been stopped.
Pastor Article (by: Anonymous - 6/10/2012)
I am sure the sheriff's office wouldn't arrest someone without the evidence being there. If money was withdrawn from an ATM, there is a picture there. There are also bank records that cannot be altered. I am an outsider looking in and there must be something to this or the law wouldn't be involved.
Lies!!!! (by: A former church member - 6/10/2012)
I was a member of new covenant worship center and pastor varis was a wonderful pastor! It is sickening to me that those who accuse him are the same people that he would meet at the hospital at 2 in the morning to pray with and support. He and his family are amazing and I know that the Lord will let the truth come out and they will come out of this more blessed than ever! I am praying for and love him and his family!
its gods money (by: Jim - 6/10/2012)
All he was doing was spreading gods money like he felt it should be. A few dinners here or there, or a few items picked up at home depot or lowes to help people in need sorta falls in line of what a church pastor should do. Atleast he didnt murder a few of his flock like other local prechers have done in the past around highlands county should be a feather in his cap.
Ha! (by: Anthony Alvarez - 6/10/2012)
I can't wait to laugh in so many people's faces.
(by: Anon - 6/10/2012)
All I have to say is compare Sam Varis' rep to Mike Cobbs!!
pastor steals from church (by: Amy Martin - 6/10/2012)
So many people have their opinions on what happened here. There are two sides to the story I'm sure, but paperwork does not lie and neither do cameras. I hope that justice is served here. A lot of people have been misled and deceived. The whole issue is very sad.
tHE TRUTH WILL BE TOLD!!!! (by: NO LONGER A CHURCH MEMBER - 6/10/2012)
There is no way this is true!!!! This pastor and his family have made the church what it is now the truth will come out in the end. Keep your heads up the Varis family you have alot of support here in avon park and sebring we will back you all the way!!!!!!!!!!!
Pastor Varis (by: anonymous - 6/10/2012)
I attended New Covenant Worship Center in Avon Park,FL. Pastor Varis is a man of God and integrity. Mr. Varis is an innocent man and i pray for him and his family in this hard time. These allegations are absolutely false and sickening! To the Varis family, keep your head up and don't let lies bring you down.
Pastor Varis (by: anonymous - 6/10/2012)
Just wanted to say i attended New Covenant Church in Avon Park,FL. Pastor Varis is a man of God, and Integrity. These allegations are completely false and sickening. I pray for his family that they would keep their head up and not let these lies bring them down.
(by: Truth - 6/10/2012)
Glad this article is completely one sided. That was sarcasm.
NOT TRUE!!!!!! (by: Old Church member - 6/10/2012)
Wow!!! I definetly don't believe this story. This is a great family that has done nothing but help everyone around them. They need to be looking at others in this case, can't wait til the truth comes out. Keep ur head up Varis family you have alot of backup in this town!!!!!
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