Head of Christian charity admits sex addiction, embezzlement of nearly $500K

by Gregory Tomlin, |
REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (Christian Examiner) – The former head of a Christian charity has admitted he used nearly half a million dollars in donations to support his sexual addiction, the Associated Press has reported.

Jon S. Petersen, until recently the president of World Ambassadors Ltd., supposedly an outreach to international college students, was formally charged with one count of filing a false tax return in 2013. Prosecutors claim Petersen did not disclose $114,000 he had siphoned off the charity and placed in his personal accounts.

Prosecutors have not said yet if more charges are forthcoming as the investigation deepens, but they seem likely since the misappropriation of funds extended over the years 2010-2014 – only a portion of the time Petersen claims he was plagued by his sexual addiction.

According to prosecutors and Petersen's admission, he shifted $475,000 over four years from the charity to his personal checking account and used the funds to pay for his addiction, though the indictment did not explain how the money was spent. It did claim, however, that Petersen was also personally in deep credit card debt. He had also taken on a line of credit on his home.

World Ambassadors is not a well-funded charity. Reports from the years 2010-2014 indicate only 31-38 people contributed to the group annually. During the period, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, those donors contributed $476,466. Slightly less, $475,555, was deposited directly to Petersen's personal accounts.

Petersen was released on bond and will be sentenced at a later date. He could spend up to three years in prison, must make restitution and could also be faced with a fine of up to $250,000.

According to the AP report, World Ambassadors Ltd. failed to complete the paperwork necessary to keep its non-profit status and had its tax-exemption removed. The Cedar Rapids paper, however, reports that the group is still registered as a non-profit "in good standing" with the Iowa secretary of state's office.

World Ambassadors was founded in 1993. The Iowa secretary of state's office dissolved the non-profit in 2003 for failure to file its annual report. It was reinstated several months later.

Christian Examiner was unable to locate a website or any social media page for the entity. However, a search of the address listed for the non-profit reveals that the foundation's home is in the middle of a residential area – at the home of Jon and Catherine Petersen. Catherine is also listed as secretary and director of the non-profit.