By Jessica Mathews /

The former pastor of a local church accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars will serve time behind bars.

Mark Milatz had been the Senior Pastor at the Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church in Brighton since 2010 and resigned in December of 2018.

In January, the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office authorized a charge of embezzlement of $50,000 or more against him. He later pleaded guilty as charged in Livingston County Circuit Court, where he was sentenced on Thursday.

Milatz was ordered to serve six months in jail, two years of probation and pay $50,000 in restitution to the church.

Milatz was alleged to have actually embezzled more than $250,000 but he couldn’t be charged for some of the earlier thefts due to Michigan’s Statute of Limitations.

The church issued a communication, which is attached, following the sentencing hearing. In a letter, Pastor Ben Bruns stated that at the beginning of this process almost four years ago, they made the decision to not pursue a civil suit and left it up to the proper authorities to proceed as they saw fit with the criminal investigation.

Bruns said he knows the sentence Milatz received may “trigger a range of emotions” as some members have been affected personally by this situation and others have been affected corporately. He said it’s his prayer that this may bring some closure to those who have been victimized.

Representatives from the church and congregation again attended the court hearing and told WHMI that testimony from church members was very powerful and emotional and that Milatz hurt a lot of people deeply.