Tag Archive: Drug Use

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor’s Wife Heather Riggs Steals Church Funds to Buy Drugs

drug bust

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.

Heather Riggs, the wife of the pastor of Victory Christian Church in Seelyville (Terre Haute), Indiana, was arrested last week and charged with “theft, check fraud, forgery, neglect of a dependent, dealing a Schedule I,II, or III controlled substance, and dealing a Schedule IV controlled substance.” In November 2016, the church’s youth director died of a heroin overdose.

This is a story that should remind us that despite all their talk of God and his awesome sin delivering power, Evangelicals face the same problems as the rest of us. The drug crisis continues unabated, both in and out of church.

WTHI-10 reports:

On Friday, police arrested 42-year-old Heather Riggs.

Riggs was an employee of Victory Christian Church in Seelyville.

According to court documents, the investigation started about two weeks ago when police arrested Jason Reed after a traffic stop.

Reed was in possession of a controlled substance.

Police say Reed told investigators he was selling drugs to Heather Riggs, adding she was using the church’s money to buy the heroin and pills.


Police say they found text conversations on Reed’s phone dating back to November of 2016.

Those conversations allegedly discussed different locations to meet and the prices for the drug purchases.

While looking through the church’s bank records, police found 14 different occasions where Riggs wrote a check to Reed.

Police also learned Riggs wrote 140 checks to herself.

On Friday, police began to question Heather and her husband Shawn Riggs.

Shawn told police for a check to be written, there needed to be two separate signatures.

Shawn said there were three deacons at the church who could sign a check.

Shawn told police after an accountant left the church in 2016, Heather and youth pastor Jared Smith took over the church’s financial responsibilities.

Smith died after a heroin overdose in November of 2016, leaving Heather in charge of the money.

Shawn told police he was not aware of Heather’s heroin addiction.

He said he had not received a paycheck in several months, and didn’t question it because of the church’s financial issues.

When police started interviewing Heather, she said she first started talking to Reed in February of 2017, saying she met him while playing softball with the church team.

That is when police told her they had the phone records.

Police say Heather began talking with Reed the day after youth pastor Jared Smith passed away.

Investigators say Heather changed her story, saying she got Reed’s phone number from Smith’s cell phone and contacted him after Smith’s death to buy oxycodone.

She told police the first time she started using heroin was in a gas station parking lot in February 2017.

She told investigators she used church money to buy the drugs, telling police she forged the signature of her husband or one of the deacons to write the checks.

She admitted to falsifying the church ledger to hide her theft.


When police asked her about two different occasions where she took two small children she was babysitting with her to Reed’s house to buy heroin, she said she only remembered doing it once.

Heather was arrested and charged with theft, check fraud, forgery, neglect of a dependent, dealing a Schedule I,II, or III controlled substance, and dealing a Schedule IV controlled substance.


Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Andy Harris Arrested for Methamphetamine Possession

pastor andy harris

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.

Andy Harris, pastor of Central Assembly of God (also known as Church of the Cross) in Haughton, Louisiana, was arrested last week for the possession of methamphetamine.

Bossier Now reports:

A former Bossier Parish pastor admitted to authorities that he had meth in his Bossier City home — and was arrested.

Bossier Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested Andy C. Harris, 56, of the 2400 block of Benton Road in Bossier City, charging him with possession of Schedule II controlled dangerous substance (methamphetamine) and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Harris was former senior pastor of the Central Assembly of God Church, also known as the Church of the Cross, in Haughton, according to published reports as well as web listings and social media.

During an investigation, Bossier Sheriff’s Detectives learned of possible drug activity at his residence. Harris cooperated with detectives, admitted he was in possession of methamphetamine, and consented to a search of his residence to retrieve the drugs.

Upon arrival at the residence, detectives found approximately 3.4 grams of suspected meth, along with a smoking device and snorting device.

Harris was arrested Wednesday evening and booked into the Bossier Maximum Security Facility with a bond of $5,000.

The Shreveport Times adds:

A letter from former senior pastor Andy Harris chronicling the difficult time he and his family faced in recent years was read aloud during Sunday service at The Church of The Cross in Haughton.

The service came days after Harris was arrested after admitting to Bossier Parish Sheriff’s deputies that he had meth in his Bossier City home. The church service was broadcasted live on Facebook. A copy of the service is still on the church’s page.

“Dear members and friends of The Church of The Cross, the past 21 and a half years has been a journey of faith and victory,” Harris began in his letter to the congregation. “It was our honor to serve you as pastor over the past two decades. Sheryl (his wife) and I have made life-long friends and seen miracles happen for many of you as you were saved, healed and filled with the Holy Spirit. We have loved and felt loved by you all.”

Harris described in his letter that the past few years was like being in a “pressure cooker” with sickness, betrayals, family struggles and the daily challenges of ministry wearing down on the former pastor.

“A few months ago, in a time of weakness, I attempted to ease the pain in the wrong way,” he wrote. “I have sinned and I have asked the Lord to forgive me. I have asked my family to forgive me. And I am asking you all — all of you — to forgive me.”

Harris confirmed his resignation from the church and asked for the congregation to pray for his family.

“Pray all of the good the Lord has done through us will outshine the bad the devil has done to us,” he wrote. “Sheryl and I love you very much.


Harris’ church bio page states:

Pastor Andy Harris began his ministry at Central Assembly of God on September 25, 1996.  Born in Prescott, Arkansas, Brother Harris is a native of Bossier City, and a graduate of Bossier High School.  His parents Chubby & Jamie Harris were a prominent Bossier City builder and schoolteacher, respectively.   He earned a B. S. in Pastoral Ministries and Evangelism at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas.  He also completed a ministerial internship at his home church, Broadmoor Assembly of God, in Shreveport, Louisiana, under the leadership of Pastor Don R. Logan.  His postgraduate studies were received at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

While attending college, our Pastor married Miss Sheryl Lynn Thompson of Hurst, Texas, on October 17, 1981.  They served as Youth Pastor and Administrative Assistant at Calvary Temple, in Irving, Texas, with Pastor J. Don George.  It was there that Pastor Harris was ordained to the ministry on April 10, 1985.

The Harrises were involved in ministry in Baton Rouge for 2 1/2 years, and then served as Pastor of Kings Corner Assembly of God in Sarepta, Louisiana, for 8 1/2 years, before coming to Central Assembly of God.  In addition to his pastoral duties, Brother Harris has served as a district presbyter, executive presbyter, or general presbyter of the Assemblies of God for more than 20 years.

The Harrises have two lovely daughters:******, and a beautiful granddaughter, ******.

Under the leadership of Pastor Harris, Central Assembly of God has grown from a church of 39 members to a congregation of more than 800 believers.

Harris is best known — at least until his arrest for methamphetamine possession —  for erecting a one-hundred and ninety-nine foot metal cross on church property. Raw Story reports:

“It was under Harris’ administration that the 199-foot-tall cross was erected on church property,” ArkLaTex reported. “The cross – which in the United States is only shorter than one in Corpus Christi, Texas (210′) and St. Augustine, Florida (208′), was not without controversy.

The planned cross violated zoning restrictions, which the church appealed to the Bossier Parish Police Jury.

“The common man on the street is going to be looking at who’s for the cross and who’s not, and we all understand the ramifications,” Pastor Harris warned.

The church was subsequently granted a zoning exemption from local authorities.

The Bossier Press reports:

There are better days ahead for The Church of the Cross in Haughton.

The pastoral team and congregation have been dealt a heavy blow with the resignation of senior pastor Andy Harris following his arrest on March 7. Harris, who admitted to authorities that he had meth in his home, had led the church as senior pastor for more then two decades.

The news was absolutely devastating.

“My heart is broken,” church secretary/treasurer Doyle Dempsey said. “We’re experiencing all manners of emotions. I’ve been through them all in a matter of days.”

Dempsey, who has known Harris for 18 years, considers him a spiritual mentor and friend. Through all the doubts and uncertainty right now, there’s one thing he’s still sure of.

“My faith is unshaken,” Dempsey said. “The word of God that has been taught from this pulpit is our guide to moving forward.”

Dempsey read aloud a letter from Harris during the March 11 morning service, which was streamed live and is posted to The Church of the Cross Facebook page. In it, Harris describes living in a “pressure cooker” situation through recent years and how it finally took its toll on him.

“A few months ago, in a time of weakness, I attempted to ease the pain in the wrong way,” Harris wrote. “I have sinned and I have asked the Lord to forgive me, I’ve asked my family to forgive me and I’m asking all of you to forgive me.”

He also asked the congregation for prayers.

“Pray that God will heal us mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Pray that we can rest in body, soul and spirit. Pray that all of the good the Lord has done through us will outshine the bad that the devil has done to us,” Harris wrote. “ God has more great things in store for The Church of the Cross. I believe he is already preparing the next pastor who will be able to take you to the next level. Be faithful, be supportive, keep serving and somehow God will turn this around for all of our good.”

Harris is no longer in custody since posting bail the night of his arrest, according to law enforcement officials. Instead, he will be receiving “counseling and restoration” at Emerge Ministries in Akron, OH, according to a post on his personal Facebook page.

“I may be knocked down…but I am getting back up…I have definitely not been knocked out,” he wrote, thanking The Church of the Cross leaders and members for their loyal support.


How Fundamentalist Prohibitions Cause Needless Suffering and Pain

sin can make you sick

Polly’s father is almost 80 years old. In poor health, suffering from severe spinal deterioration and arthritis, Dad has decided to have a total hip replacement. While Polly and I are absolutely against him having the surgery, it’s his life and he is free to do what he wants. Dad is in constant pain and he hopes that having the hip replaced will lessen his pain. The doctor gave no guarantees and, having worked with many hip replacement patients when I worked for Allegro Medical, a Phoenix based direct medical equipment supply company, I’m worried that the surgery could make his pain worse or land him in a nursing home. It’s hard to stand by and do nothing as parents make decisions like this, but Dad and Mom are competent to make this decision, so we will do all we can to love and support them. We remind ourselves that someday we will be where they are.

By now, you are probably trying figure out how the title of this post, How Fundamentalist Prohibitions Cause Needless Suffering and Pain, fits with what I have written so far. Let me explain. Dad was always a hard worker, often able to work circles around men half his age. He and I got along well because we both had that workaholic drive, the need to constantly be busy and get things done. However, at the age of 65, Dad was in an industrial accident that injured his back and required immediate surgery.

Soon, pain became an ever-present reality. Dad, having been taught that taking narcotics could lead to addiction, refused to take anything more than Tylenol or aspirin. Later in life, Naproxen was added to the mix as was Darvocet, a drug that was later removed from the market due to serious side effects. Dad would do his best to only take what he thought he needed, often only taking half a pill or going without taking anything for several days. No matter how often I reminded him that it would be better if he took the drugs regularly and on schedule, he continued to endure the pain rather than take the drugs as the doctor ordered.  A year or so ago, Dad’s doctor gave him a prescription for Tramadol and a few weeks ago he gave him a script for Oxycontin. Finally, I thought, he will find some relief for his pain and suffering. Sadly, that was not to be the case.

You see, Dad is afraid of becoming addicted and this is one of the reasons he is having a total hip replacement. In his mind, if he has the hip replaced, perhaps the pain will lessen and he won’t need to take the Oxycontin. No addiction, and God will be happy.  I would try to explain to him the difference between addiction and dependence, but I don’t think he’d hear me. Having been a narcotic user for over a decade, I know that I am dependent; I’m not an addict. I take the drugs as prescribed. I wish that Dad could see that being dependent is no big deal and that regularly taking Oxycontin will reduce his pain and improve his quality of life.  Unfortunately, thinking drug dependence is a sin keeps Dad from getting the full benefit of the drug.

This is a perfect example of how fundamentalist prohibitions cause unneeded suffering and pain. From preaching that says addiction (dependence) is a sin to viewing pain and suffering as some sort of test from God, many fundamentalists eschew drugs and treatments that would likely improve their quality of life. Better to suffer for Jesus, the thought goes, than to become dependent on narcotics. In just a little while, Jesus is coming again…so endure until you see your Savior’s smiling face.

As an atheist, I am deeply troubled by this kind of thinking. Since I think this life is the only one we have, we should do all we can to eliminate not only our own pain and suffering, but the pain and suffering of others. Since there is no heaven and no reward in the sweet by and by, why needlessly suffer? Better to become dependent on narcotics and have some sort of pain relief and improved quality of life than to go through life suffering, only to die in the end.  While I certainly think having a chronic illness and living with unrelenting pain has made me more compassionate, I don’t wish such a life on anyone, especially those I love.

How about you? Were you taught that taking narcotics and becoming dependent on them was a sin? Please share your story in the comment section.


I pastored numerous people over the years who thought taking pain medications was a sign of weakness or lack of dependence on God. I watched one man horrifically suffer from bowel cancer, unwilling to take drugs for the pain. I’ve come to see that this is the Evangelical version of the Catholic self-flagellation.



Larry Tomczak: The ‘Summer of Love’ is to Blame for Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

summer of love

In recent years, it has become fashionable to blame Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, for every perceived American social and moral ill.  According to Larry Tomczak, the blame for the legalization of same-sex marriage belongs to the ‘Summer of Love’ generation. In a post titled 6 Lies from the Pit of Hell, Tomczak traces the moral decline of the United States from the drug using, free sex days of the 1960’s to the recent U.S. Supreme decision legalizing same-sex marriage. Tomczak, a one time associate of C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, writes:

…Beginning with the shocking assassination of President Kennedy in the ’60s, a flickering of Camelot–inspired hope was extinguished. Prayer and Bible reading were banned from our public schools and the “God is dead” pronouncement of 1966 fostered an era of skepticism and cynicism bleeding through our land.

It’s not like there was one defining event that triggered our current confusion, but when the turbulent 24 months of ’67 and ’68 erupted on the scene, clues emerge. Cultural analysts call this a “tipping point.”

The year 1967 was dubbed, “Summer of Love.” Scores of us naïve youth fell in line behind pied piper Scott McKenzie as we grabbed our knucklehead buddies and love beads and swayed with the wind all the way to San Francisco. Do you remember the song? “Are you going to San Francisco? You’re going to meet some gentle people there. … ” It almost moves you to put some flowers in your hair!

Millions of us idealistic young people and our counterpart “hippies” believed we were ushering in the long–awaited “Age of Aquarius” with all our peace symbols, free love and free speech. American psychologist Timothy Leary, took LSD and told us, “Turn on, tune in and drop out.” Seduced by our foolishness we declared, “Never trust anyone over 30!” while Pete Townshend and the Who exclaimed, “Hope I die before I get old!” (He’s now 70 and still cashing in on his musical career!). Soon thereafter, hundreds of thousands were sloshing in the mud at the Woodstock Festival—can you believe it’s been almost 50 years?

Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, was my idol as I was a drummer in The Lost Souls. His moronic philosophy: “I’m interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activities that appear to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road to freedom! ”

Slowly but surely, years of “freedom” took its toll. Time magazine called 1968, “A knife blade that severed past from the future.”

Casting off restraints to protest and launch the Gay, Women’s and Black Power Movements, the Sexual Revolution and the Drug Counterculture, we soon morphed into meltdown. The Civil Rights Movement was one positive initiative.

Pop idols Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison all were dead at age 27—overdosing on drugs, sex and unrestrained freedom. AIDS (GRID – Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, as it was called) followed. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. Student riots paralyzed Chicago. The Altamont Rock Festival degenerated into murderous mayhem right before Mick Jagger’s bloodshot eyes. Kent State University erupted in campus shootings over the still-simmering Vietnam War. Hippie communities and gay bathhouses started folding like houses of cards as Barry McGuire sang “Eve of Destruction.”

Abortion demands intensified as all the “Make love—not war” mantras spawned unwanted babies. Soon abortion was legalized.

Divorce laws were liberalized (today 80% of divorces are “no fault,” translating into 45 million divorces since the end of the ’60s!) Sexual standards evaporated and resulted in rampant pornography, skyrocketing out-of-wedlock births, one in every four teens strapped with a sexually transmitted disease, drug abuse, school violence, teen suicide, spousal and child abuse, violent crime, prison overpopulation, sexual anarchy, gender confusion, glamorizing and promotion of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism with gender reassignment surgeries. All of this proliferating since the now infamous “Summer of Love” soured to a stench…

Multitudes of people need a reality check to bring them out of a sentimental yet distorted remembrance of this period. We must remove the romantic recollections of this turbulent ’60s era. In contrast to PBS nostalgic specials highlighting the supposed peaceful and musical ’60s time period, we need to come down to earth and recognize the devastation that resulted. This was not a time that was all groovy, lovey, peaceful with flowing-hair, girls in granny dresses twirling in the park amid syrupy-faced guys with tambourines and doves flying around their heads as they harmonized in childlike unity, singing “Kum ba ya” and playing flutes while innocently getting high. This is a fantasy that needs to be shattered immediately…

Like many of his ilk, Tomszak pines for a return to the 1950’s; a time when Negroes knew their place, abortion and birth control was illegal, sodomites were still in the back of the closet, women stayed at home, divorce was rare, and Christianity ruled the land, In Tomczak’s mind, everything began to go downhill when God was thrown out of the public schools and hippies spent all their time smoking dope and screwing.

Tomczak mentions six lies, lies he says are from the pit of hell, that are now accepted by many Americans:

  • Premarital, extramarital and traditionally abnormal sex are moral and healthy.
  • There should be no sanctity of human life in law.
  • Drug use makes great recreational sport.
  • Divorce offers an easy escape from marriage.
  • Marriage should be redefined to include same-sex unions.
  • God is dead—at least make it appear that way by systematically airbrushing Him from society.

In typical Evangelical fashion, Tomczak shows he has no understanding of what those outside of his cult believe. He also assumes that the only  legitimate standard of morality is his fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian Bible. Using Tomczak’s infallible moral standard,  premarital, extramarital, and homosexual sex become abnormal, immoral, and unhealthy. An unwillingness to believe life begins at conception means that you believe human life has no value and should not be legally protected.

I don’t know many people who think that drug use is a “great recreational sport” or that divorce “offers an easy escape from marriage.” Do some people treat drug use as a recreational sport? Sure, but I have yet to see anyone suggesting we start the ADUL, the American Drug Use League. Long before the ‘summer of love’, humans were using drugs, legal and illegal, to alter their mood or emotional state. 2,000 years ago, Jesus turned water into wine. Unless Tomczak thinks Jesus turned the water into Welch’s grape juice, the wine provided by Jesus at the Wedding at Cana, was a mood altering drug.

And when it comes to divorce, what is really behind Tomczak’s objection to an “easy escape from marriage?” Is it because divorce is forbidden by the Bible or is the real reason women are now able to free themselves from abusive men? Perhaps the real issue is uppity women who dare to think they should be treated equally.  Kick them shoes off, clean the house, cook supper, and have lots of little Christians, ladies! That’s your calling. Leave the hard work to men like Larry Tomczak.

The real reason men like Tomczak rage against liberalism and secularism is because they no longer have a preferred seat at the cultural table. They are upset that progress has moved the United States beyond the zenith of Evangelicalism, the 1950’s, when In (Christian) God we Trust was added to our paper money and  allegiance to the Christian God was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. More and more Americans are indifferent or hostile towards Christianity and this has Evangelicals looking for someone to blame. For Tomczak, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of long-haired tie-dyed wearing hippies.

Like every Evangelical guru, Tomczak has a plan:

Three things are essential for us to see societal transformation.

1. We must recognize the gravity of the situation.

2. We must cry out to God for wisdom and a sense of urgency.

3. We must pray and proclaim the gospel and truth at every opportunity as we engage outsiders in a winsome way.

This presupposes that we know the issues, the truth, and have the courage and confidence to speak out. “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, wisely using the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you should answer everyone” (Col. 4:5-6).

Seeing the gathering storm clouds on the horizon, I recently pulled apart with my wife to a secluded cabin in the mountains of Tennessee. My assignment from God was to write a book that would be a tool to help shape informed influencers to make a difference in today’s confused culture. I pinpointed the 30 “hot button” issues of today.

God gave me a practical plan: Challenge people to take 30 days and invest 15 minutes a day in a 3 step process to develop a biblical worldview and confidence in addressing our country’s controversial issues: 1. Review a video—3 min. 2. Read an article—10 min. 3. Reflect and pray—2 min. The title of the book is Bullseye and it’ll help us “hit the mark” in sharing the gospel and biblical truth to dispel deception and foster spiritual awakening.

I invite your prayer support as we finalize this project. May this be one of many divine strategies given by God at this tipping point in America’s history.

“God” gave Tomczak a practical plan that is sure to “dispel deception and foster spiritual awakening.” For 30 days, 15 minutes a day, Tomczak wants like-minded Evangelicals to:

  • Review a video—3 min
  • Read an article—10 min
  • Reflect and pray—2 min.

Oh, and he is writing a book he wants everyone to buy.  There’s a-lw-a-y-s a money angle.

On his blog, Tomczak calls his plan the Bullseye Challenge. According to Dr. Michael Brown, a former “heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer” and the “world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist”, Tomczak’s plan will turn Game of Thrones watching, NASCAR loving Republicans into a “confident communicator and change agent in today’s confusing culture.” So far, Tomczak’s blog post has ONE Facebook like and ZERO retweets on Twitter.

Want to know more about the Bullseye Challenge?  Check out Tomczak’s video: