updated 4/20/2006 5:59:38 PM ET 2006-04-20T21:59:38

A pastor whose soldier son died in Iraq was charged with spending $250,000 in insurance money meant for the soldier's young daughter.

Prosecutors said Janie Lee Espinoza spent all the cash on cars, jewelry, a Florida time-share, church pews and a baby grand piano. The pews and instrument were apparently given to Espinoza's church, the Church of Jesus Christ in New Chicago, south of Gary, they said.

Espinoza, 56, became the guardian of the life insurance payout a month after Spc. Roy Buckley died in April 2003 in a vehicle accident in Baghdad.

Police said the money was to go to Buckley's then-6-year-old daughter when she turned 18. Defense attorney Garry Weiss said that ownership of the insurance money is in dispute and that the time since Buckley's death has been emotional for Espinoza.

"She lost her son in the war," Weiss said. "She was mourning and distraught and was grieving for the loss when all of this occurred."

He said she received $150,000 in government benefits and forwarded that money to her granddaughter without court intervention.

Espinoza faces eight counts of felony theft. Weiss said she would turn herself in to police by Friday. Bond has been set at $25,000.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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