Gary Ray, then pastor of the Oso Community Chapel, carries chocolate bars for victims of the Oso mudslide on March 27, 2014, near Oso. (Jordan Stead, seattlepi.com, file)

Gary Ray, then pastor of the Oso Community Chapel, carries chocolate bars for victims of the Oso mudslide on March 27, 2014, near Oso. (Jordan Stead, seattlepi.com, file)

Former pastor pleads guilty in theft of Oso slide donations

Gary J. Ray admitted he took at least $10,000 intended for families affected by the 2014 disaster.

OSO — A former pastor of the Oso Community Chapel pleaded guilty Tuesday to three counts of first-degree theft after stealing thousands of dollars from families who survived the 2014 Oso mudslide.

Gary J. Ray, 57, admitted to taking about $10,000 from the church and a total of more than $35,000 from two other congregations, including Restoration Church Camano.

Each of the three counts has aggravating circumstances for abusing his position of trust.

“In all of the above events, I had the intent to deprive the above organizations of the money,” Ray wrote in court documents. “I used my position of trust to facilitate the theft, and the above involved multiple victims, multiple incidents, and occurred over a number of years.”

His case is being handled in Island County Superior Court because the investigation started at Restoration Church Camano, where he worked after leaving Oso.

The stolen money had been raised by faith-based organizations and was then transferred into a personal bank account, according to court records. Prosecutors alleged that Ray took the donations for his own use with “no intention” of distributing them.

Ray had been working for the Oso chapel at the time of the 2014 disaster, where 43 people lost their lives.

Soon after, he started to work for the church on Camano Island as well. That created tension with Oso chapel leaders, who were not on board with the plan, court papers say.

There also were questions about the way he handled money. He became frustrated when he was not allowed free rein with fundraising in Oso, police were told.

He was fired from his position at the Oso chapel later that year, after about four years in the position. He continued to work on Camano Island.

People connected to Restoration Church Camano contacted the sheriff’s office in 2017 with concerns of possible embezzlement. During that investigation, police found out about what had happened in Oso.

He was arrested around that time, and was charged about a year ago.

Ray is scheduled to be sentenced in February. The standard range is three to nine months in prison, with a maximum of 10 years for each crime, according to state guidelines.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @stephrdavey.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

A King County Sheriff’s Office photo of the crawlspace in which Urbano Velazquez was hiding when a K-9 unit was used. Sound Publishing file photo
King County settles $2 million dog bite lawsuit

The county agreed to pay $100,000 after being sued after a 2016 K-9 unit arrest.

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

Contributed by the Society for Conservation Biology 
A map showing the locations where plants have gone extinct in the U.S. and Canada since European settlers arrived.
Study: 65 plant species have gone extinct in U.S., Canada

More than 65 species of plants have gone extinct in the U.S.… Continue reading

File photo
Snow Lake, located near Snoqualmie Pass in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Washington releases new forest plan

It outlines ways the state will protect and maintain forest health.

Sage Viniconis is a career performing artist in King County who’s been out of work and seeking creative outlets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy photo/Sage Viniconis
Puget Sound artists adapt creativity, and business sense, to pandemic

Artists Sunday is an online directory that connects artists across the county, state and nation.

Chris Fagan trekking across Antarctica in 2014. Contributed by Chris Fagan
South Pole or Bust

The story of a North Bend couple who trekked across Antarctica.

King County Council has nine members who each represent a district. Courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County Council passes $12.59 billion biennial budget

King County Council on Nov. 17 passed a $12.59 billion biennial budget… Continue reading

State Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) authored the letter to Gov. Jay Inslee. Mullet represents the 5th Legislative District. File photo
Democratic lawmakers ask Inslee to lift ban on indoor dining

They want to try to scaling back on occupancy before forcing an end to inside service.

Tim Eyman get in some last minute campaigning for I-976 in downtown Bellevue on the afternoon of Nov. 5, 2019. File photo
Eyman fights allegation he repeatedly broke campaign laws

In a lawsuit, the state accuses the prolific initiative promoter of getting kickbacks.

Kabal Gill, owner of East India Grill in Federal Way, wears gloves to hand over take-out orders at his restaurant. File photo
State halts indoor service at bars, restaurants, home guests

Amid soaring new coronavirus cases and an overburdened health care system, the state’s clamping down.

Screenshot from Gov. Jay Inslee’s news conference Nov. 12 with his wife, Trudi.
Inslee to hold news conference to announce new restrictions

Among them, reportedly, will be a ban on indoor service at restaurants and retail limitations.

Jay Inslee (D), left, and Loren Culp (R). File photo
Gov. Inslee surges to big lead as he nears rare third term

Statewide office roundup: Schools chief Reykdal in close contest; Secretary of State Wyman fends off challenge.