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Tag: Money Laundering

Black Collar Crime: So Many Crimes, So Little Time Issue

black collar crime

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.

jeannette jives nealy

Pastor Jeannette Jives-Nealy Convicted of Money Laundering

Jeannette Jives-Nealy, pastor of Kingdom Dominion Worldwide Ministries in Memphis, Tennessee, was accused of stealing $162,000 in government funds meant for feeding poor and hungry children. Last Friday, Jives-Nealy, was convicted of money laundering.  According to the Lexington Herald Leader, Jives-Nealy has a checkered past which includes a four-year stint in prison for bilking the State of Florida out of $200,000.

joshua clemons

Evangelical Youth Pastor Joshua Clemons Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes

Earlier this year, Joshua Clemons, youth pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Parker, Colorado was accused of sexually assaulting a teen church girl. You can read my previous post on Clemons here.  Monday, Clemons pleaded guilty to “one count of sexual exploitation of a child — video/20+ items and one count of attempted sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust – victim age 15-18.”

Denver-7 reports:

Clemons, who worked as a pastor at the Parker church from 2006 through September 2015, had been accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl who had long been in his program.

The relationship carried on as the girl went to college at Colorado State University before ending toward the end of last year, when the alleged victim said Clemons began to show up at her new church and she threatened to get a restraining order, according to police documents.

Clemons is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 21 at 3 p.m. He faces between three and nine years in prison, according to sentencing guidelines for class 4 and 5 felonies.

norman abernathy

Baptist Youth Pastor Norman Abernathy Accused of Sexually Assaulting Two Church Girls

Norman Clay Abernathy, former youth pastor at Langston Baptist Church in Conway, South Carolina, is charged with two counts of third degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and three counts of second degree assault and battery. According to CB-Sumpter, Abernathy sexually assaulted two church girls at his home. The girls were visiting Abernathy’s daughter when the alleged assaults occurred.

According to the church’s pastor, Hampton Drum:

He came highly recommended. We do extensive background checks on all those who come to us. He did voluntary work all the way up to June of this year when he resigned for personal reasons. We now know those personal reasons are the accusations that came up.

What is an “extensive” background check? And how would such a check reveal past criminal sexual behavior? As churches are learning, background checks are not a cure-all for clergy and staff sexual misconduct.

pastor harry thomas

Evangelical Pastor Harry Thomas Withdraws Guilty Plea, Fears He Will Die in Prison

Harry Thomas, pastor of Come Alive Church in Medford, New Jersey and the founder of Creation Concerts (Festivals), was accused last year of sexually assaulting  four minors over a sixteen-year period. You can read my previous post about Thomas here.  In February, Thomas pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting several children.

The National Post reports that Thomas, facing twenty-years in prison, was supposed to be sentenced on Friday. Instead, Thomas withdrew his guilty plea.

chauncey walker

Evangelical Youth Pastor Chauncey Walker Pleads Guilty to Having Sex With Church Girl

Earlier this year, Chauncey Walker, youth pastor at Word of Life Ministries in Wichita, Kansas, was accused of having sex with a teen church girl. You can read my previous post on Walker here.  Friday, Walker pleaded guilty to having sex with a fifteen-year-old church girl.

The Wichita Eagle reports:

“She was 15 when it started, and it progressed from there,” the former youth pastor says on the recording, which was recorded by a relative of the girl without Walker’s knowledge. Under Kansas law, only one party needs to consent to recording a conversation.

After he had sex with the girl, she said he made her promise that if anyone asked, she was to say that it was her idea, according to an affidavit filed by a sheriff’s detective.

“Things with Walker started right after her 15th birthday,” she told a detective working the case. He “took her out for ice cream and flirted with her.” About a week later, he came to her parents’ house to see her. She said Walker was a close friend of her parents. She said she and Walker ended up in her bedroom and kissed for a while.

They later had sex at Ground Zero, the church’s youth building, in Walker’s car in the country, at his house and in different hotels, according to the girl’s account in the affidavit.

Once the allegations surfaced, Walker conceded, he wasn’t honest at first about her age “because, I’ll just be honest — I didn’t want to go to jail,” he said in the recording.

If Sedgwick County District Judge David Kaufman agrees to the terms of the plea deal, Walker will be sentenced to 95 months, or nearly 8 years.

ronnie gorton

Evangelical Worship Leader Ronnie Gorton Indicted on Additional Sex Crime Charges

In March 2018, Evangelical worship leader Ronnie Gorton was indicted on numerous sex crime charges. Gorton was employed by Awakening Church in Atoka, Tennessee. On July 10, 2018, Gorton was indicted on forty-four more sex crime charges. The Leader reports:

According to court documents, the new charges allege Gorton abused another teenaged victim from November 2014 until February 2018, when the initial accusation was made.

The 44-count indictment includes: rape of a child, 19 counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, 19 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and five counts of violating the Child Protection Act, which is continuous sexual abuse of a child.

todd shane tomko

Evangelical Pastor Todd Tomko Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes

Last year, Todd “Rhino” Tomko, a disgraced U.S. Marine colonel and pastor of Parkview Church in Quincy, Illinois, was charged with “three counts of indecent liberties with a child, three counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of cruelty.” You can read my previous post on Tomko here.  Tomko later pleaded guilty, and on July 10, 2018, he was sentenced to eighteen-months in prison for his crimes.

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Sean Riley Charged with Money Laundering and Securities Fraud

sean riley

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.

Thirteen years ago, Sean Riley, the Evangelical ex-pastor of Secret Place International Church in Humble, Texas, pleaded guilty to operating a pyramid scheme.  The San Antonio Express-News reports Riley “was given two years’ deferred adjudication and was ordered to pay a $500 fine.”  Today, Riley finds himself under indictment for money laundering and securities fraud.

KSLA-12 reports:

A former pastor who in 2015 was cited by a state board has now found himself in hot water following a grand jury indictment.

Sean Patrick Riley, 50, of San Antonio, is charged with money laundering, theft and fraud sell securities. He was arrested on the charge March 22 and is being held on a collective bond of $75,000.

According to the indictment, Riley committed the crimes between Dec. 30, 2014, and Jan. 27, 2015.

The Texas State Securities Board issued a cease and desist order against Riley and his company, Petro-San Resources LLC on June 22, 2015. The order states Riley offered oil and gas investments in Texas at a single well for $7,500 and a $30,000 investment would entitle investors to a four-percent working interest and may lead to a monthly revenue of $2,112.

According to the order, the investment was not registered for sale in Texas and Riley failed to disclose that he had pleaded guilty to promoting a pyramid scheme, charged with DWI and charged with assault. The order also says Riley had been issued cease and desist orders in Pennsylvania and Georgia.

According to an article in the San Antonio Express-News, Riley was the pastor of Secret Place International Church, a Humble “storefront church and TV ministry” in 2005 and was convicted then in the pyramid scheme.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Henry Lyons Accused of Criminal Financial Behavior — Again

henry lyons

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.

Henry Lyons, pastor of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Temple Terrace, Florida, spent five years in prison for extortion and money laundering. Lyons used the proceeds of his crimes to feed the hungry and minister to the poor. Just kidding. Lyons used the money to fund his opulent lifestyle. After his release from prison in 2004, Lyons became the pastor of Salem Missionary Baptist. He was fired from his job last year. Now, it seems, Lyons has returned to his old thieving ways, proving yet again that a leopard can’t change its spots.

Corey Johnson, a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, writes:

Before he was sent to prison nearly 20 years ago, the Rev. Henry Lyons apologized for a litany of sins. Extortion and laundering of church funds. Hidden properties, secret mistresses and an opulent lifestyle that included luxury cars and a personal chef.

But the former St. Petersburg pastor who once presided over the nation’s largest black religious organization never said a word about Rochelle McCanns.

McCanns is a convicted prostitute who rose to an administrative position at Lilly Endowment Inc., an Indianapolis-based philanthropy that is one of the world’s wealthiest charitable foundations.

In the 1990s, records show, Lyons secretly funneled thousands in National Baptist Convention U.S.A. money to McCanns, including $10,000 donated by the Anti-Defamation League for the rebuilding of black churches damaged by arson.

Authorities knew McCanns received the diverted money but she was never charged with a crime. Prosecutors and investigators say they were focused on bigger targets.

Now a Tampa Bay Times investigation finds the relationship between the two continued decades later in a new Lyons’ scheme, this one targeting Lilly’s generosity.

Interviews and records show McCanns and Lyons arranged to have more than $130,000 in Lilly money sent to New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Temple Terrace, which made Lyons pastor in 2004 after his release from prison. The stated purpose was to help finance youth programs and community service work. Records show most of the funds ended up in accounts controlled by Lyons.

McCanns, 70 and now retired, denies doing anything wrong. She says she never received a dime from Lyons, past or present.

“I don’t have anything to do with Henry Lyons or his money,’’ she told a reporter before abruptly ending a recent interview.

Lyons, 76, who was fired from New Salem last year, did not answer questions about his relationship with McCanns or about bank records that show Lilly money moving in and out of his accounts.

Warren Hope Dawson, his attorney, declined to discuss specifics. He said, however, that there was no contract or church bylaw that prohibited Lyons from opening personal accounts and depositing New Salem money in them.

“Rev. Lyons denies any wrongdoing in connection to the New Salem church,” Dawson said. “Any wrongdoing that was done in the past, he was punished for it, and he accepted his punishment like a man.”

Last summer, the FBI seized a computer and multiple boxes of financial records used by Lyons and his wife from New Salem offices. As is its practice, the FBI will not comment on investigations.

But McCanns acknowledged agents have contacted her. And more recently, church officials say agents have been questioning them. Several said they were asked if they would be willing to testify against Lyons.

Wynie Anderson was the secretary at New Salem for 19 years. When an invoice or donation arrived, Anderson was usually the first to know.

She made bank deposits and notarized property transactions. She scoured the Internet looking for ways to raise money for the church. One day in late 2009, she told the Times, Lyons called her into his office. He told her he had stumbled onto a new grant prospect and needed her help.

The Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis — created by members of the family that built Eli Lilly and Co., the giant pharmaceutical firm — had money the church could get, Anderson said Lyons told her. But there was a twist. Lyons would have to send money to get money.

“He says to me, ‘This funding comes from this endowment where they pay pastors if the pastors give X amount of dollars,’?’’ Anderson said. “I say ‘really?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’?’’

Lilly says nothing like that has ever existed. But the organization does have an “incentive for personal giving” program open only to Lilly employees, who can apply for a 2-to-1 match of every dollar they donate to an outside charity. Employees must certify the donation is coming from them and not from outside individuals or organizations.

For months, Lyons mailed at least $1,500 to a contact at Lilly, Anderson told the Times. When a Lilly check arrived at the church, he told her where to deposit it. For her help with each transaction, she was typically given $300.

Occasionally, Anderson would talk by phone to a woman at Lilly who wanted to make sure the church had the forms it needed.

Her name, Anderson said, was Rochelle McCanns.

From 1975 until her retirement in 2015, McCanns held a number of administrative positions at the Lilly Endowment. The last was overseeing its matching gift program for employees.

The Lilly Endowment is one of the largest private foundations in the world, with more than $10 billion in assets. In a typical year, it awards hundreds of millions in grants, much of it to education and religion programs.

The matching gift program is designed to encourage employee giving.

Between 2009 and 2014, Lilly paid New Salem’s nonprofit arm — New Salem Ministries — $132,200 in matching grants. In each instance, McCanns signed a form certifying she had made the initial contribution personally, according to a statement by Clay Robbins, the Lilly Endowment chief executive.

At the time, the church charity provided food for the poor, child day care, an after-school program and other social services. It was supposed to receive $20,000 in 2009; $23,400 in 2010; $18,800 in 2011; $21,000 in 2012; $26,000 in 2013 and $24,000 in 2014.

Bank statements and church records show at least $94,000 was diverted into other accounts controlled by Lyons.

Most of it went to Regions Bank in Tampa. Lyons directed an 82-year-old deacon to start the new account, called the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church Benevolence Fund, on Feb. 11, 2013. Bank statements show the deacon opened it with $3,000 from church members’ tithes and donations.

That was the same day the U.S. Attorney’s Office informed Lyons of its plans to audit his finances to ensure he was paying his legally required restitution for crimes committed while president of the National Baptist Convention. It was also the same day prosecutors filed a subpoena on BB&T bank, demanding records about Lyons’ checking and savings accounts there.

Until that time, New Salem kept its benevolence funds at SunTrust and PNC banks. They were small pots of money set aside to provide loans to church members in crisis.

The fund would range from as little as $100 to as much as a few thousand. Dispersals were capped at $300, with each case required to be approved by Lyons and one other church leader.

Between February 2013 and December 2014, $69,800 in Lilly matching money moved in and out of the account at Regions. The cycle of deposits and withdrawals was repeated 15 times, with checks from Lilly or McCanns coming in and money going out to Lyons or accounts he controlled.

Breach Ministries, a charity created by Lyons, received $42,100. Almost $15,000 went to Lyons directly while $10,700 was paid to National Trusted Partners, an organization founded by Lyons.

Church officials say the benevolence fund at Regions was created without their knowledge. They say they didn’t learn of the Lilly checks until told by the Times.

The deacon has since left the church.

G.W. Stewart, treasurer for National Trusted Partners at the time of the transactions, told the Times he was unaware the organization had received thousands intended for New Salem Ministries. Lyons alone controlled the checkbook, he said, as well as related financial transactions. He insisted he was a treasurer in name only and never saw financial statements or held any real oversight power.

“One time Lyons brought the checkbook with him and I saw something that I couldn’t understand,’’ he told the Times. He said he asked Lyons to identify the recipient of a particular check.

“And he said, ‘Well, I have some personal business mixed up with that. So don’t worry about that,’?’’ Stewart said. “I left it alone. After that I didn’t ask any more questions. I figured if I don’t know nothing about it then I’m not involved.”

Most of the Lilly donations do not appear to have been disclosed to the Internal Revenue Service by New Salem Ministries, as required by law.


You can read the entire story here.