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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Raymond Vliet Pleads No Contest to Attempted Embezzlement

pastor raymond vliet

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In July 2019, Raymond Vliet, pastor of Old Beth-el General Baptist Church in Flushing, Michigan, (no web presence) was accused of bilking an elderly parishioner out of tens of thousands of dollars. Authorities believed there could be more victims.  WNEM-5 reported at the time:

Vliet, pastor of Old Beth-el general Baptist Church in Mt. Morris Township, faces charges of embezzling $20,000 to $50,000 from a vulnerable adult and committing a financial transaction without consent.

Sheriff Robert Pickell said the investigation started after a loan officer noticed something suspicious. Pickell said that happened when Vliet, who had power of attorney for a 91-year-old parishioner and his wife, went to a credit union to get a loan for a pontoon.

“The pastor convinced the victim’s wife before she died to sign over the modular home in the name of the church and it’s Beth-el general Baptist Church. And she did that because she was so taken in by the pastor. He was doing God’s work,” Pickell said.

The loan officer denied the loan request, and while researching, found Vliet also had power of attorney for other members of the church, Pickell said. That’s when she called the Elder Abuse Task Force.

Pickell said when the credit union turned down the loan, the pastor went to another place and did secure a loan. He also got a loan for another vehicle when he learned the 91-year-old man’s vehicle couldn’t pull the pontoon.

When a welfare check was done at the victim’s house, Pickell said officials noticed some things that just weren’t right.

In September 2019, Vliet agreed to “plead no contest to attempted embezzlement from a vulnerable adult $20,000 or more but less than $50,000.”

In November 2019, Vliet attempted to withdraw his no contest plea, alleging that the prosecutor had “pressured” and “strong-armed” him into making the plea.

MLive reported at the time:

A Flint-area pastor is alleging he was coerced into accepting a plea deal in connection with an embezzlement case.

The allegations came about during a Monday, Nov. 25 hearing in Genesee Circuit Judge David J. Newblatt’s courtroom for Raymond M. Vliet Jr., 55, who is accused of embezzling money from a 91-year-old man to purchase several items and trips.

Monday’s scheduled hearing for Vliet included a motion to withdraw a plea deal and potential sentencing

….

Vliet agreed Sept. 20 in Genesee District Court to plead no contest to attempted embezzlement from a vulnerable adult $20,000 or more but less than $50,000.

K.C. Baran, Vliet’s attorney, however, told the court Monday that his client said the plea deal was not voluntary as he felt “pressured” and “strong-armed” after being asked by Newblatt what the claims were that may be made at a future hearing.

“This is just how he feels and how he felt at the time he entered the plea,” said Baran.

Vliet claims he was told he’d face additional charges, increased bond and could remain in jail for up to two years awaiting trial.

Assistant Prosecutor Rebecca Jurva-Brinn argued there was “absolutely nothing” to Vliet’s claims he didn’t understand the plea deal.

….

Vliet would have to pay restitution to two victims as determined by the probation department as part of the previously negotiated deal which has yet to be approved by the court.

The judge ultimately called for a Dec. 11 [2019] evidentiary hearing to hear the claims by Vliet, along with any other witnesses.

In attempting to track down which church, if any, Vliet is pastoring, I came across conflicting reports.

The Daily Gazette reports:

Defense attorney Fred Meiers said he hasn’t yet had an opportunity to review all the evidence against Pastor Vliet and didn’t want to make any comments.

Meiers told The Morning Gazette Radio Show last week that it was unclear from the police report what church his client is affiliated with after being told a Linked In page by Pastor Vliet says he currently serves as pastor at Time of Grace Community Fellowship on Davison Road in Flint. A website for the Flint church does not list Pastor Vliet as being affiliated with their church in any way and a message at the church has not yet been returned. A Facebook Page for Old Beth-El General Baptist Church in Mt. Morris Township also does not list Pastor Vliet and has only three “likes” registered on it, but a sign in front of the church, however, does have Vliet listed as its pastor. No phone number could be obtained for Old Beth-El General Baptist Church.

As of the writing of this post, I found no final disposition of Vliet’s case, or whether he is still a pastor.

I did, however, receive a comment from a man who says the case against Vliet is all lies — a conspiracy between the sheriff’s office and the prosecutor (all grammar and spelling in the original):

Do you believe in truth in reporting? I would think putting your name on this article you would have some integrity. did you investigate any of this information you posted or are you just here to Bash any Pastor to push your atheism?

This man is innocent he has taken the evidence to the FBI to prove that he’s innocent.

And I don’t know any guilty person that would do that. but let me just tell you Bruce when the old woman passed her children tried to come in and steal everything from the old man and put him in a home and they tried to do that before his kids could find out she passed so they could take what little bit they had they actually tried prior to her passing. And when the pastor wouldn’t allow them to do that then they took advantage of the fact they had a deputy in the family working for the Sheriff’s Department and they conjured up all kinds of things and decided if they couldn’t steal it from the old man that they would contact a daughter and start all this BS.

Now the daughter by her own admission in the police report admit she hadn’t had a relationship with her father in over 20 years fact is she wouldn’t even take his call the old woman and the old man told several people this.

Don’t you find it strange the police or no one who had contact with a couple or was in or out of their home didn’t talk to any of them didn’t interview anyone in the church they claimed the pastor had Powers of Attorney over everyone in the church

yeah I’m part of the church and I can tell you not one member does the pastor hold a power of attorney over or even another human being.

In addition everything else that was put in news media what’s a complete lie fabricated by the Sheriff’s Department.

If you want the truth and you want to prove email me we will send you all you need to know the print the truth. Unless of course you’re not interested in the truth the Constitution gives you the right of free speech Integrity gives you the right of Truth in free speech.

I responded:

This series relies on publicly reported stories. On November 25, 2019, Raymond Vliet pleaded no contest and was ordered to pay restitution. I will update the story to reflect this. If you have any further public news stories about this case that show what I have reported is incorrect, please provide them. I always want these stories to be accurate. You saying something did or didn’t happen is not the same as a verifiable news report. I’ve written 800 of these stories. Occasionally, people contact me, as you have, outraged that I’ve printed a “false” story. Yet, when asked to provide public news stories that support their claims, they are unable to do so.

For future reference, passively-aggressively besmirching my character is so “Christian” on your part. You want my help, yet you insult me.

If you have actual evidence to send me, please use the contact form at the top of the page.

Bruce Gerencser

As of today, this commenter has not provided any verifiable public information to support his claim that Vliet is being railroaded by the Genesee County sheriff’s department and county prosecutor. If such evidence is provided — and I did a through web search on this story — I will gladly amend this post.

Update on October 26, 2020:

7th Judicial Circuit Court records state that on December 11, 2019, the judge approved Vliet’s motion to withdraw his plea. As of October 12, 2020, Vliet’s case is awaiting trial.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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25 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Good morning everyone. Sunday is actually fun now, thanks to the papers, coffee, and goodies ! I must say, this is one sad story regarding that Vliet. But it’s not all that surprising– affinity fraud is a big problem, more so in my state, California. Affinity fraud can lead to death, nor just lost savings and property. Real estate agents, brokers and lenders( mortgage companies)often use that Christian label to cause the victim’s guard to come down. I warn people to take papers to an attorney or legal aid, before signing anything ! I lost my best friend to foul play by such people in 2006. He was family to me– I have no family in this country. You never get over this, never. I read about other’s stories, how a bunch of congregants are pressured by their pastor to invest savings in some seminar guy’s product, only to be wiped out,even as they say they thought God wanted them to trust that guy and ‘obey’. Don’t go there.

  2. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    I am interested, Mr. Gerencser, in understanding your ‘atheist agenda’, the one you are trying so hard to ‘further’ by publishing false stories about preachers. I keep hearing this ‘idea’ from Christians, how atheists want to turn the world into a moral and ethical cesspool, how they are involved in cultic practices, have sex with and eat babies and so forth.
    I have not been able to verify this oft-repeated meme and wonder if you might, as a known perpetrator of atheism, reveal to me your ‘agenda’. Over time, it seems to me that non-believers simply don’t believe in God(s) but often say they are open to being provided proofs and that should these proofs stand scientific scrutiny, they are more than willing to change their position. Christians, on the other hand, firmly knowing their Saviour, actively shout protests when anybody offers them information that is not approved by their local pastor, their Christian club.
    So, please, please, Mr, Gerencser, if you would be so kind, explain just what the atheist agenda is, pretty please?
    You might title your response, The Great Atheist Commission, or something like that?

  3. Avatar
    Truth in reporting

    This story about this vliet guy is sad! But only because no one is really interested in the truth. I tell you what i know this story and this man. He is the Best man i know and hold him in high regard. He gives to everyone and since becoming a pastor, has never taken anything from anyone and given to anyone in need. I will pay $10,000 to anyone that can show me where he used any power of attorney to apply for a loan.(surely he would have to sign an application) even further for any proof he did anything but love,care and provide for that couple. Also for any power of attorney from other church members as is claimed he held.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      You have provided no evidence for your claim that the sheriff and prosector conspired against Vliet; that this publicly reported story is materially false or misleading. Time for you to put up or shut up. You seem to think that pastors can’t do bad things; that it’s impossible for Vliet to do what he is accused of (and what he admitted doing). I am starting to wonder if you are actually Vliet or a close relative of his.

      If you have evidence that proves your assertions, please provide it. If not, you have nothing to add to this story. I added your unsubstantiated claims to this post. What more would you like me to do? Take your word for it? Not a chance. Preachers can and do commit crimes, and then lie about it. “Good” men do bad things. Read through the 800 posts in the Black Collar Crime series and then tell me that it is impossible for the Vliet to embezzle money from congregants. You think far too highly of the man, so much so that it blinds you to the possibility that he just might be guilty.

  4. Avatar
    Truth in reporting

    Why does it take a public news article to get someone to print the truth? I Can tell you Bruce this is my Issue, No one investigates facts in reporting anymore so if we all just keep reprinting bad information it becomes true? There are bad people everywhere and in every faith whether christian or not and i Sir was not at all attacking you. Rather my intent was to find out if you would print the truth and if you were interested in it? And i promise i will only tell you what i know to be true and can either prove or tell you where to find it.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Public news stories are the standard by which I write these stories. Don’t like it? Start your own blog and use it to prove your claims.

      As far as you not “attacking” me, your comments suggest otherwise. Your passive-aggressive approach tells readers everything they need to know about you. You’ve suggested I’m a liar, dishonest, lack integrity, a coward, have a secret agenda, and I’m part of the “conspiracy” against Vliet. I’ve given you far more space than I normally would, but now you have reached the point where I tell people, fuck off. So, fuck off.

  5. Avatar
    Truth in Reporting

    Also if you heard the entire statement by sherrif pickell. Do you believe all those claims against the pastor? Is it possible to get a $600,000.00 insurance policy on a 91 year old guy? I can also tell you the Pastor still leads our church here at Old be-thel in which he is loved and trusted because every member hereknows the truth and Btw not one Reporter or law enforcement has ever Entered these Doors to seek the truth. But I invite you right here and now to come meet the Pastor and ask any questions you have of him or any Member. The truth is Here!
    Maybe you could be the First to print it!

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Dude, I’m not going to do this with you. Just because Vliet still pastors the church doesn’t mean he’s innocent. In fact, he took a plea deal, a fact you conveniently ignore. Here’s the thing, I don’t believe you. I think you have an agenda. I’ve not read anything that suggests that this story is false or misleading (and you have provided no publicly verifiable evidence to the contrary). In fact, I did a search on court records for Vliet. Has he ever had legal disputes, a problem paying his debts?

      Prattling about the “goodness” of Vliet or the size of his dick, err I mean his life insurance policy, proves nothing. The late Bob Gray — a Baptist megachurch pastor — sexually molested children and committed adultery for 50 years without every facing a court of law. He was finally caught shortly before he died, but he escaped justice. He was a Holy Spirit-filled man of God who led thousands of people to saving faith. He was a wonderful man to be around. Yet, he was a child molester and adulterer. I could tell you countless stories about pastors who did bad things — including crimes. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility for Vliet to have committed the crimes he was accused of. That you refuse to believe this is your problem, not mine.

  6. Avatar
    Truth in Reporting

    Yes many pastors do Bad things Bruce and yes it is immpossible for this man to embezzle from anyone. Also the man never admitted to any wrong doing and if you check public record you will find that the judge did find he was forced to take a plea of no contest and it was proven. And if you will agree not only is there bad pastors there are bad cops as well i will be happy to send you pages of documents and testimony proving his innocence and the. There were numerous Doctors, nurses social workers in that home who will all testify to the pastors innocence also why is a man not innocent until proven guilty in this country And your eyes?? I can also tell you the Pastor still leads our church here at Old be-thel in which he is loved and trusted because every member here knows the truth and Btw not one Reporter or law enforcement has ever Entered these Doors to seek the truth. But I invite you right here and now to come meet the Pastor and ask any questions you have of him or any Member. The truth is Here!
    Maybe you could be the First to print it! If the mans guilty why is he still preaching the Gospel on the outside??

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      No, the public record says Vliet claims he was forced to take a plea. I found no public story that says the judge agreed with Vliet. The fact that people testify to this man’s goodness proves nothing. Church members, in particular, are often naive and refuse to believe that their pastor could ever do bad things.

      I make no judgments on these stories. I publish what is reported by reputable, credible news sites. You have not provided one link to a story that says what you claim is true. Instead, you assert without evidence that the sheriff, prosecutor, and judge are all conspiring to ruin Vliet, and I am party to this conspiracy.

      If you have links to stories that prove your conspiratorial claims, please provide them. If not, I will approve no further comments from you.

  7. Avatar
    Truth in Reporting

    Bruce i am not attacking you in anyway and not careing to make this debate public. I am trying to share with you the truth. When i started reading your story which i cannot locate now. I thought you life was a mirror of Pastor Ray’s he has ran a ministry for years in nursing homes and jails. For no pay just for the love of Gods Word.and he also suffers from daily pain yet still gives his all. I felt you two share the same and rare life of a good pastor. He sacrificed his life to care for that couple and took nothing from them. I can assure you there are many people that would tell you that anyone one that had interaction witb them could tell you real facts and acts of love he did for not only the couple but them as well. Please email me an address and i will send you lots of proof. The old guy was a victim, not of the pastor but with the pastor. The old guy lived in his home with the pastor and made his own choices and he and i and others went fishing with him and the pastor and he was well cared for. The lies got the old guy handed over to his daughter and all his rights violated and now is forced to live wherever she says and has no rights and she has taken everything he had and sold it.when he was with the pastor he enjoyed all his belongings now has an owner. Im not trying to convince u or anyone else. I only ask if you are interested in the truth? I can prove anything i say or tell u where to find it. Why not demand truth to condemn a good man?
    The pastors first lawyer was in on the corruption and forced the plea which was proven in district court and plea withdrawn! I can never and will never believe anything reported now unless i see proof. I wouldnt have belived it either had i not witnessed this. There was 17 people at the court begging to be heard all credible witnesses. And not one prosecuter or detective would talk to then and not even the pastors lawyer when they did this.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Please provide a link to a credible news story that proves your claims. Until you do, I don’t believe you. You don’t have a link to a news story, do you? You surely would have provided it by now. That you haven’t provided it tells me that you have no actual evidence to prove your claims.

  8. Avatar
    Truth in Reporting

    Bruce i am not attacking you in anyway and not careing to make this debate public. I am trying to share with you the truth. When i started reading your story which i cannot locate now. I thought your life was a mirror of Pastor Ray’s he has ran a ministry for years in nursing homes and jails. For no pay just for the love of Gods Work and he also suffers from daily pain yet still gives his all. I felt you two share the same and rare life of a good pastor. He sacrificed his life to care for that couple and took nothing from them. I can assure you there are many people that would tell you that anyone one that had interaction witb them could tell you real facts and acts of love he did for not only the couple but them as well. Please email me an address and i will send you lots of proof. The old guy was a victim, not of the pastor but with the pastor.

  9. Avatar
    Truth in Reporting

    I understand you think i think to highly of the man. On the other hand you truly want to think so low of him.? I can tell you this there are many who think highly of this man and he would be the first to tell you he is not perfect he is a sinner like all of us. But he did not and would not do this and also i can tell you i have done my homework and read all testimony and heard from the witnesses. I have read the transcripts from the hearings including the gaudianship hearing where the old guys right under the constitution were violated. I also know the old guy in the news was said to have dementia and then put on the stand to testify where he stated the pastor took no money from them and that he help them finacially.Also Pickell claimed the pastor bought a boat and jeep which is false. He claimed the Pastor did so many things yet not one true and therefore no proof of such. Tell me would you ever believe a report again if u saw proof of that? Please email me for private correpondence im am not here to bash you. Im looking for one reporter with integrity!

  10. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    ” Truth in Reporting” can you go to the courthouse and get the case numbers and docket info, and send all the docs to Bruce then ? That would show what, if anything ,that can vindicate Vliet. With all this affinity fraud going on, you should get the above docs and make them available to everyone, as well as Bruce. That will be the final arbiter.

  11. Avatar
    Bruce Gerencser

    Update on October 26, 2020:

    7th Judicial Circuit Court records state that on December 11, 2019, the judge approved Vliet’s motion to withdraw his plea. As of October 12, 2020, Vliet’s case is awaiting trial.

  12. Avatar
    Michael Aube

    Hi my name is mike that church was a big part of my life My girlfriend and I of 5 yrs went almost every sunday when all this stuff came out I questioned Ray’s motives quietly to my significant other you know talk like couples should do I was met with anger and hate soon after our relationship dissolved I went to my pastor for advice but obviously She had talked to him first… How dare I question his integrity he told me he couldn’t help me with my relationship with her she evicted me the very next day she let me see the kids at first but that didn’t last the kids I love and helped raise like my own for almost 5 years she took from me and then proceeded to lie and get Ppo on me I violated it once it was last Christmas and I was trying to send the kids presents and she pressed charges against me I later have learned from old neighbors that she and Ray are living together now as a couple Raymond Vliet is an evil man I don’t know if he embezzled money but I know he’s a pastor with no morals

  13. Avatar
    Truth in reporting

    So a bogus news story holds more fact in your eyes then a judgement of the courts? If the plea was withdrawn would that not be proof that obviously Vliets claims had to be true about the forced plea? Ok Bruce i am wasting my time here and my wife told me i was, you are like all the rest truth does not matter. I have offered to send u proof and also you ignore the fact that not one person who went to that church was ever recorded stating any attempt of financial abuse against them or that the pastor held POA over them as the news reported. Not one statement ever made has been proven or anyone close to the couple questioned. BTW the man also was not a member of the church either, of course it good that you are no longer a believer so no fear of Judgement!
    I appreciate the Good work you do outting these molesters i just wish i had faith in the integrity of the news you count on to give you material. I understand the lack of ambition to investigate every case for truth. However i fail to understand your refusal to look at material facts offered to you, to be sent to you for your own opportunity to know the facts. Good luck!

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      The charges have been refiled, right? The case is still before the court, right? Again, you could have emailed me your alleged evidence and chose not to. YOU chose not to do this. You could have posted said evidence to the comment section of this post and chose not to. YOU chose not to.

      So, stop being a whiner, and put up up or shut up. Repeatedly attempting to post the same drivel over and over will not work.

      And, yet again, you reveal you are an asshole, choosing to attack me personally and besmirch my character. This kind of behavior towards me does not work. Trust me, after doing this work for years, I am immune from such attacks. All you are doing is showing what kind of man (or woman) YOU are (since you refuse to use your real name).

      No further comments from you will be approved by me. I see that you ignored the comments from someone else who had a very different opnion of Vliet. I suppose they are lying, right? All fake news, nothing to see here.

      Bruce Gerencser

  14. Avatar
    Truth in reporting

    So if others write in and say good things about this man, will you post these? Or only if they have a bad opinion?

    Would you welcome me to share your sight with the many supporters and witnesses?

    Thanks 4 ur time

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Maybe. Testimonials are personal opinions, not facts. This post is about the facts as presented by local newspapers.

      I have a personal opinion about Vliet, but I have not shared it. Believe me, your behavior on this site has not not done any favors in my eyes for Vliet. Of course, you hide who you are, attack me personally, and try to besmirch my character, so as far as I know, you could be Vliet himself. You have zero credibility with me, and, I suspect, the readers of this site.

      Any attempt by you to use different email addresses and names will result in you being banned at the server level. This means you won’t even be able to access this site, let alone comment. Remember, I know what your IP address is, your service provider, and where you are commenting from. I even know what computer/device you are using and whether you’ve been circumcised.

      Your repeated attempts to comment and use different names and email addresses borders on harassment. Your continued attempts to do this will result in me filing an official harassment/TOS violation with your service provider. And, if you are a Christian, your behavior reflects poorly on your faith. It doesn’t seem that you really care about how your behavior is viewed by thousands of people.

      No more comments from you. Not one, dude. Failing to abide by the comment rules will result in you being banned at the server level. So will any attempt to dishonestly comment. It’s your character on display here, not mine.

      Bruce Gerencser
      CEO, CFO, CTO, President, and Executive Bullshit Detector for The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

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