Cupertino man sentenced for embezzling millions from Saratoga church

A Cupertino man who paid cash for multiple Bay Area homes with millions embezzled from a Saratoga church and a wealthy donor was sentenced to four years in prison, authorities said Friday.

Jonathan Chang, 64, formerly an elder responsible for managing finances at Home of Christ 4 Christian Church, was ordered to pay $11.7 million in restitution in addition to the four-year sentence handed down in a San Jose federal court, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila described Chang's scheme as an "enormous betrayal" of the church and community.

Over 12 years, Chang defrauded a wealthy donor and set up entities with names similar to the church, directing more than $6.7 million to his own organizations, according to a release from U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson and FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair.

Under the premise of acquiring a new church house and conducting missionary work, Chang took $2.25 million in one-time donations, a $3 million loan to acquire the new building, and $1.5 million total in monthly donations, federal prosecutors said.

Chang instead used the funds to make all-cash purchases of multiple houses for himself in the Bay Area, bought luxury vehicles, obtained 15 timeshare interests and invested in commercial real estate, prosecutors said. The embezzled funds were also used to pay for his health insurance and athletic club dues.

Chang's average annual salary was reported as $65,000, but he purchased millions of dollars in real property, owned a Mercedes and lived a luxurious life, prosecutors said.

Between 2004 and January 2016, Chang obtained more than $7.5 million in funds from the donor and the church, according to prosecutors.

The four-year sentence follows a guilty verdict resulting from a five-week trial in U.S. District Court. 

Chang and his wife, Grace Chang, 60, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 4, 2016. They were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire or mail fraud; four counts of wire fraud; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; and three counts of money laundering.

The jury found Jonathan Chang guilty of all the wire fraud and money laundering counts. The jury did not reach a verdict on the two charged conspiracy counts, nor did the jury reach a verdict on the counts filed against Grace Chang.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Davila also ordered Jonathan Chang to serve a three-year term of supervised release to begin after the prison term. 

The judge also ordered Chang to pay $11.7 million in restitution to his victims and forfeit his interest in five real properties, resulting in an amount of at least $8.8 million.