A Columbus pastor who claimed his family was robbed of about $11,000 in cash and valuables while he was preaching at church has been arrested on felony charges of insurance fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Justin K. White, 38, 3255 Sunrise Drive, senior minister at First Christian Church since May 2011, is accused of arranging with a juvenile to stage the Dec. 18 burglary at his Skyview Estates home on the city’s northeast side in order to file an insurance claim for the lost items, court documents in the case state.
White is accused of having the burglary staged to obtain money from his insurance company to pay a drug debt, court documents state. The charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor relates to White being accused of seeking to have a juvenile commit an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, dealing in a narcotic drug.
White was arrested at 6:45 p.m. Friday at his home by Columbus Police detectives, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman. The charges were filed late Friday afternoon at the Bartholomew County Courthouse, from where a warrant for White’s arrest was issued soon thereafter.
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The news story of the burglary at the White home resulted in national news coverage, with White reporting the family received an outpouring of kindness from local residents and the church congregation in the aftermath.
Two Columbus police officers, friends of the White family who did not want to be identified, replaced the family’s stolen living room television the same day of the burglary with a new one they purchased as a gift. Among the items White reported stolen were coins in his daughter’s piggy bank, jewelry with sentimental value, Xbox consoles and games and computers.
“We already have prayed as a family for the people who did this,” White told a Republic reporter Dec. 19, one day after the burglary. “Really, they are the ones who are truly struggling.”
However, as Columbus Police detectives looked into the burglary allegation, they determined there were no signs of forced entry at the home. The front door and two other doors on the ground floor were unlocked and undamaged, they said. And the thief or thieves had left untouched wrapped gifts under the family’s Christmas tree.
Officers later learned after obtaining a search warrant that White made a claim for the burglary loss the same day he reported it through the Cincinnati Insurance Co, seeking $11,460.75 in compensation, court documents state.
In an unrelated investigation, Columbus detectives obtained a search warrant for the home of the parents of the juvenile who was involved, who is only identified by initials in the court documents. The juvenile told officers that he had an addiction problem and had just gotten out of rehabilitation, court documents state. After repeatedly denying that he had burglarized White’s house, he told officers, “Justin has a very bad drug problem, too, and he’s been asking me to get him things for him since I was 15 years old on house arrest,” court documents state.
The juvenile said the “things” were drugs, specifically pain pills and heroin, court documents state.
The accused accomplice said he had met White for spiritual counseling when placed on house arrest at age 15 or 16 for possession of marijuana, court documents stated. White would come to the boy’s house at lunch time while both of his parents were at work, court documents state.
On his second visit, White asked if the boy could get him some marijuana for his aunt who had cancer, court documents stated. During the third counseling session, White asked for prescription pain pills; and eventually, White asked the boy to obtain heroin for him, court documents states.
At the time of the burglary, White owed the juvenile about $1,000, and had met with the juvenile in his car at a business parking lot to set up the burglary, court documents state.
White originally wanted the juvenile to do the burglary Dec. 16 while he was in Ohio for his grandmother’s funeral, but the juvenile rejected the idea because of the short notice, court documents states.
On the day of the burglary, the boy went to the White house with another juvenile, a female, who knocked on the door and the two walked in because it was unlocked. A pile of items was where White had told them it would be, court documents said, except for a large television which was also part of the deal White had made with the youth, court documents state.
The boy told detectives his primary way of communicating with White was through Facebook Messenger, with White deleting the messages after they were read, court documents states.
When detectives called White in to tell him that they had recovered some of the family’s property, officers read him his rights and asked him about his relationship with the male juvenile, court records state.
White told detectives that he had been meeting with the boy about drug-related matters — around the same time White had been seeing a doctor for headaches, and was put on hydrocodone, the court records state.
“And, uh, I had that first pill and I wanted the whole bottle,” White told investigators, court records state.
The doctor continued to refill White’s prescription and he told investigators he became addicted, court records state.
White told detectives he met with one of the accused accomplice’s friends, who was a dealer, and White began buying drugs from him, court records said.
“I’m not proud of this now. It was horrible,” he told detectives, court records state.
White admitted to detectives that on a Sunday night, July 27, 2015 he overdosed on heroin and Columbus Police officers administered naloxone, a drug-overdose antidote, which saved his life but resulted in White being sent to treatment at a Hazelden addiction-treatment center in Minnesota for 32 days in August 2015, court documents state.
White told investigators he was clean after the treatment and had been off drugs ever since, court records state.
During the interview, detectives repeatedly questioned White about his interactions with the juvenile boy and specifically about their communication on Facebook. During the interview, White repeatedly denied setting up the burglary and denied he had relapsed on drugs, court records state.
In January, detectives interviewed another juvenile male, who told them that White had messaged him on Facebook when the accused burglary accomplice was incarcerated in a juvenile detention center and had asked the second male juvenile to obtain pain pills for him, court records state.
That juvenile then began regularly selling pain pills to White along with heroin, court documents stated.
The second male juvenile told detectives that when White was on vacation and he needed drugs, White would send him to the his residence with the password to the garage and was told to get certain items to pawn or trade to the drug dealer, court records state. The boy would then drive to where White was vacationing to deliver the drugs, court records state.