Church Official Embezzled Millions To Buy A Membership At Disneyland's Club 33

Haunted mansion at New Orleans Square at Disneyland

There's been a lot of talk, especially recently, about just how expensive Disneyland is. Hotels are expensive, theme park tickets are expensive, food is expensive. Serious Disneyland fans save their money to make sure they have the cash for that all important annual passport every year, but for some with bigger bank accounts, there's a goal out there with a significantly higher price tag that the rest of us can only dream of, Club 33.

The exclusive establishment is only open to a select few, and membership is not cheap. Nearly every serious Disneyland fan likely dreams of visiting Club 33 -- unless you're part of the comparatively small list of people who actually have -- and imagines that if they ever had enough money, a Club 33 membership is what they would spend it on. One Southern California church official apparently did just that. Unfortunately, it appears he may have embezzled several million dollars in order to do so.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California has announced the arrest of Charles Thomas Sebesta, the former chairman of the board for the Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist in Los Angeles. He's been charged with fraud in the alleged theft of over $11 million in church funds, some of which he apparently spent on a Club 33 membership at the happiest place on earth.

Sebesta had been in charge of the church's funds since 2005, and he purchased the Club 33 membership in 2010. He apparently used the location to host major entertainment companies, sports teams, and their employees. It's unclear if this was done under the auspices of church business or as something purely personal.

For those not up to speed, Club 33 is a members only location which can be found at New Orleans Square,the home of the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, inside Disneyland. The official address is 33 Royal Street, though the physical entrance has moved as the park has been renovated.  Membership to Club 33 is reported to cost upwards of $25,000 a year, with annual dues of approximately half that amount once you have the membership.

Other Club 33 locations have been built at other Disney parks over the years, but Disneyland's was the first.

Even if you have that kind of money to spend, getting into Club 33 isn't easy, as there is a significant waiting list and a fixed number of available memberships.

Prior to the opening of Oga's Cantina at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Club 33 was also he only place one could purchase alcohol within the Disneyland theme park.

As one of those people who has never been to Club 33, I can totally understand the desire to purchase a membership. If I had $25,000 burning a hole in my pocket, I'd put my name on the waiting list straight away.

Hopefully, Charles Thomas Sebesta enjoyed his time at Club 33, as he may not have any more chances to visit. If convicted of all charges, he's facing a maximum prison sentence of over $250 years.

On the plus side, if you've been on the Club 33 waiting list, you may have just moved one slot closer to the top.

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Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.