Gatlinburg pastor charged with felony theft

Gatlinburg pastor charged with felony theft

(Source: Sevier County Sheriff's Office) Ronald Lukat (Source: Sevier County Sheriff's Office) Ronald Lukat

6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) – The Gatlinburg Presbyterian Church congregation speaks out after its former pastor is accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars.

Pastor Ronald Lukat turned himself in at the Sevier County jail Thursday night. Church members say he misused the church credit card. They say the roughly $3,600 in purchases he made included a hearing aid and new tires for his car.

"Oh, he was a wonderful pastor. We really loved him. This came like lightning, out of the blue," said church spokesperson Peggy Noblitt.

She says they are working with authorities on the investigation.

"We've already paid off his credit card," she mentioned, about how they are working on cleaning up the mess. In addition to paying the credit card, they say his negligence as church treasurer also forced them to close their daycare.

They owed over $40,000 in unpaid taxes.

"It's officially been dissolved as a corporation. And because we have a large tax bill, we won't be reopening," she explained, about the daycare closing.

Today she says they have a new pastor and working on moving forward. The whole incident has been a lesson to the congregation on who you trust.

"Be careful and do good oversight," is her advice to other churches.

6 News spoke to Lukat's attorney. He told us his client's bond has been set at $10,000. And he planned to bond out.

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