Franklin Avenue Church of Christ

Franklin Avenue Church of Christ in Gretna

A Gretna preacher pleaded guilty to bank fraud this week, admitting he stole more than $320,000 from his flock at the Franklin Avenue Church of Christ over the course of seven years.

Joseph R. Alexander, 61, admitted he falsified the church’s check registry to conceal checks he wrote to himself, tapped an online church bank account and forged a church elder’s signature for several other illegal withdrawals. The scheme began around 2006 and continued through 2013, he admitted.

Alexander pleaded guilty to a single fraud count. Prosecutors in U.S. Attorney Peter Strasser’s office agreed to dismiss 15 other counts in exchange for his plea.

According to a grand jury indictment issued last year, Alexander spent his ill-gotten gains on family vacations in Alaska, Las Vegas, Chicago and elsewhere; part of his son’s tuition at Mississippi Valley State University; $72,000 toward his home mortgage; another $53,000 to pay his car note; and gifts bought at Victoria’s Secret and Apple Store, among other retail outlets.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance set an April 3 sentencing date for Alexander, who faces a maximum 30-year prison term and a $1 million fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carter Guice Jr. handled the prosecution.

Alexander’s attorney, Eddie Jordan, declined to comment Friday.