Bishop Conto to restitute US$9,500; Pastor Kettor to payback US$30,123.10
Criminal Court ‘C’ yesterday found Bishop P. Mannesseh Conto and his Assistant Pastor Steve Kettor of the Mission of Today Holy Church in the New Kru Town Community, on Bushrod Island, guilty of duping Korean national Hungchi Choi of US$39,623.10.
Conto and Kettor were accused of robbing the Korea Trading Corporation (KTC) of a vehicle and spare parts sale and rental services amounting to over US$132,000.
Kettor was KTC’s general manager when the crime was committed, while Conto was serving as the consultant to the company.
Judge Blamo Dixon also suspended imprisonment of both Bishop Conto and Pastor Kettor.
“Bishop Conto and Pastor Kettor are hereby declared guilty, but the court hereby withholds their sentences for imprisonment,” Dixon declared. “And their probation exercises are also suspended.” The criminal court did not give any specific reason(s) leading to the suspension of their imprisonment and probation.
In his ruling Judge Dixon said though Choi, who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Korea Trading Corporation (KTC), sued for over US$132,000, from a careful perusal of the case, defendants Conto and Kettor were guilty of stealing US$39,623.10 out of that money.
According to Dixon, Bishop Conto stole US$9,500 out of the US$39,623.10, while Pastor Kettor also stole the remaining US$30,123.10.
“Defendants Conto should restitute US$9,500, while Kettor should also restitute US$30,123.10,” the criminal court judge maintained.
Defending his action, Dixon said from the testimonies of the plaintiff (Choi) and the defendants, together with documentary evidence, he established that another defendant, Henry Smith, who is believed to be at-large, was behind the disappearance of most of the monies. Smith was also ordered arrested by Judge Dixon.
The case started when Hungchi Choi, who is the owner of the company, claimed that while he was out of the country as a result of the Ebola virus outbreak, the two men sold and rented some of his vehicles, thereby raising thousands of United States dollars, but converted the proceeds into their personal use.
He also alleged that the defendants rented some of his company’s vehicles to U.S. military personnel, who came to Liberia to help in the fight against the Ebola outbreak, the World Food Program (WFP), and deposited the money into the account of SACS Group, a company the defendants had established.
According to the indictment, defendant Kettor was in July 2014 employed by Hungchi Choi as general manager of the Korea Trading Corporation (KTC), a vehicle sales and rental company.
The indictment further stated that while Hungchi was away in South Korea during the Ebola outbreak, Kettor was left in charge of the company and 31 vehicles.
Kettor, with collaboration from Conto, allegedly sold and rented some of the KTC’s vehicles, thereby raising several hundred thousand United States dollars and converting the proceeds into their personal use.
The two religious leaders allegedly generated US$155,930 but reported US$38,846 to the company.
Immediately after Judge Dixon’s judgment, outside of the courtroom Choi hailed the decision but wondered why the defendants were not sentenced to jail for their crimes.
“I understood that there is justice in Liberia, but why would the judge not send them to jail, but this is Liberia too,” Choi said.
Choi said he could not understand why those “calling themselves bishops and pastors” could behave dishonestly.
“I thought they were the best people to go to for counseling and other spiritual matters, but for them to turn into criminals is regrettable,” the KTC’s owner noted.
Initially, Choi said, he had asked the defendants to confess their wrongdoing and be forgiven. However, they refused, and the law has rendered them unfit to bear the burden of Jesus Christ, “except, like Peter, they repent from their hearts in tears.”