Scammers cost congregation their church - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Scammers cost congregation their church

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Scammers will stop at nothing, including stealing a church. One congregation lost money, their sense of security and their church building.

Reverend Royce Cornelius is understandably angry. "It was the end of the world, it was unbelievable. I had been violated. Not just violated financially, I was violated emotionally." He and his congregation were scammed out of their church.

It started when they decided to buy a new building, but had difficulty getting a loan.

Postal Inspector Samuel Abraham Freedman says, "The housing market collapsed, is another way to put it. It became almost impossible for churches to get loans. One broker that we interviewed actually said no one was giving churches the money because no one wants to foreclose on God."

Then the reverend met Jamal Lawson. According to Freedman, "I think of Jamal Lawson as a charming devil, with a silver tongue and a golden keyboard because the craft he had in creating these lies, in creating these scams, sending solicitations, full color that looked very professional through the mail, promising these churches all of this money."

Reverend Cornelius spent $4000 from the church's funds. The process seemed to be going well, to the church decided to sell its old building.

Then they realized they'd been duped. He wasn't alone. Lawson scammed 25 churches out of more that $100,000.

Reverend Cornelius says money wasn't the biggest loss. "What we lost was our dignity --in the church world we were made to look foolish. We were boasting. We were celebrating the new building we were getting, we were emailing, we were posting pictures and tentative dates of moving and all of a sudden they sold our building, the deal was closed. We were homeless. We had nowhere to go. We had 1500 people who had nowhere to go."

Postal inspectors say it is very important to do extensive research before entering financial transactions.

Lawson is charged with three counts of wire fraud and is still awaiting sentencing.

 

 

 

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