A Hunterdon County couple who operated a church out of their home plead guilty to charges of stealing social security benefits and tax fraud, officials said.
Christopher Pennetta, 52, and Catherine Pennetta, 57, both of the Pittstown section of Alexandria Township, plead guilty to theft by deception on Thursday, Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns, III, said.
As a part of their plea agreement, the pair will also pay $70,000 in restitution to Hunterdon County Social Services, he said.
The pair were arrested in 2016 following an eight-month investigation, Kearns said.
The investigation revealed the Pennetta's had submitted misleading applications for social services and security benefits since March of 2014, as well as failing to file and pay income taxes in 2014 and 2015, according to the proseuctor's office.
"The Pennetta's were also found to be operating a home improvement business without the proper registration in 2015 and 2016," he said.
The couple's house is the location of the Latter House of Glory. According to Alexandria Township tax records, the property has been exempt from property taxes since 2014.
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Alexandria Township tax assessor Eloise Hagaman told NJ Advance Media in July that she planned on denying the exemption this year because she was unsure who now is serving as the officiating clergy, and whether they were living in the house.
The charges they faced are unrelated to their church activities. A grand jury indicted the pair in March, and the two will be sentenced by a Superior Court judge in February.
Earlier this year, NJ Advance Media reported that neighbors they never saw religious services being held at the home. The only evidence it is a church was a small sign at the edge of the driveway, added at the request of the township.
Because Catherine Pennetta is listed as living in the house and is listed as the organization's officiating clergy, the house qualified as a church and parsonage, it was previously reported.
Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at email@example.com. Follow her at @snietomunoz. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
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