Church leader allegedly embezzled money for Disney Club 33 membership

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A former Los Angeles church leader was recently accused of stealing over $11 million from a church in order to purchase a home as well as a membership for Disneyland’s exclusive (and expensive) Club 33.

KTLA reports that Charles Thomas Sebesta, a 54-year-old former leader of Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist in Los Angeles, was arrested on Monday, August 26 on a federal indictment alleging he made false payments from the church’s bank accounts and siphoned off proceeds from the 2008 sale of the church’s Hollywood Boulevard flagship location. Currently, Sebesta faces six counts of wire fraud, five counts of bank fraud, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

In a nutshell, Sebesta reportedly forged checks and used his position as board chairman at Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist to steal over $11 million over the course of a decade. And it seems as though he was quite the Disney fan — or at least, he was a fan of getting into an exclusive Disney eatery, since he used some of the stolen dollars to purchase a membership to Club 33, the historic, expensive, and exclusive club at Disneyland park that has been around for almost as long as Disneyland has.

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club 33 entrance
Disneyland’s Court of Angels, once public, now used as the private entrance for Club 33.

If you’re unfamiliar with Club 33, we’ll break it down for you. It is an exclusive dining location that started initially at Disneyland park in Anaheim but has since expanded to other Disney Parks around the world. Disneyland’s Club 33 is situated in an inconspicuous location in New Orleans Square. It’s an exclusive club, so a small percentage of Disney fans actually get the chance to visit and dine there, and it’s pretty expensive. The annual Club 33 fee is around $10,000, and there’s an additional initiation fee of $25,000.

Eater reports that Sebesta spent time at Club 33 wooing entertainment executives and sports professionals with the eatery’s lavish dining experiences. Currently, we’re not sure if Sebesta will be revoked of his Club 33 membership or status.

Club 33 is a bucket-list item for many Disney fans, so we’re not surprised that a former southern California church leader wanted a piece of this elite Disney magic (especially when celebrities and prominent Disney figures are members). But is Club 33 worth stealing millions of dollars to get into? We’re not so sure.

With all of Sebesta’s charges, he could face 250 years in federal prison.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.

Source: KTLA, Eater

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