HOWELL — Former Shepherd of the Lakes Church pastor Mark Milatz was sentenced Thursday to jail and probation in Livingston County Circuit Court.
Milatz paid $50,000 in restitution during the sentencing hearing before Judge Michael Hatty. He previously paid an additional $50,000.
"Justice has to be served and I can't have people in positions of authority using that authority to siphon money," Hatty said to Milatz as he issued the sentence.
Hatty could have sentenced the former pastor to 19 to 38 months in prison, but he instead gave Milatz 180 days in jail and two years probation.
Milatz will begin serving his jail time at 10 a.m. Oct. 3 so he can complete a seasonal job this summer in Wisconsin.
Before sentencing, Hatty gave Milatz a chance to speak. He turned to the members of his former church and said, "I loved you guys, I hurt you guys, I hear you and I'm sorry."
Milatz pleaded guilty April 29 in the 44th Circuit Court to embezzlement of $50,000 to $100,000 in connection with thefts from 2015 to 2018.
During Milatz's time as the church's pastor, he embezzled more than $250,000 between 2011 and 2018, the Livingston Daily previously reported.
In 2018, Milatz resigned from his position at the church and moved to Wisconsin with his family. Then, in January 2022, he was charged with embezzlement.
Assistant Prosecutor Kollette Bordeaux focused heavily on the effects of Milatz's actions on the people of the church.
"Many people have suffered emotionally, psychologically, because of this," she said.
Defense attorney Rob Morad was more focused on Milatz's regret.
"He's been waiting for this day," Morad said. To have to sit down with his children and tell them what he's done, "was extremely embarrassing and probably worse than any sentence this court could give."
Six people offered victim impact statements Thursday, among them, church school Principal Julie VanDeven.
"You, Mark, are a thief and a liar," VanDeven said.
"He continues to manipulate innocent people," church worship director Amy Duncan told the court.
"You stole money from families that trusted you," church director of facilities Lori Gaines said.
Sophia Lada is a reporter for the Livingston Daily. Contact her at email@example.com or 517.377.1065. Follow her on Twitter @sophia_lada.
This article originally appeared on Livingston Daily: Brighton pastor sentenced to two years' probation, 180 days in jail