5 Costly Cases of Church Fraud

Mar 17, 14 • Blog1 Comment

You’d think the house of God would be impervious to fraud, but unfortunately, church fraud is quite common among the pews and parishes of modern America. Sometimes it’s because of bad apples among the congregation, other times it’s carried out by religious leaders themselves, but at the end of the day, the money is still taken away from the people who need it most. Here are five sobering examples of fraud in the church.

5: Korean Central Presbyterian Church

In 2011, Virginia resident Eun Tae Lee was arrested for embezzling more than $700,000 from the missionary chapter of the Korean Central Presbyterian Church. He did it by gaining control of the company’s bank account and writing checks to himself, which he would then cash and spend lavishly on personal luxury items. When a church fraud detection service finally caught up with him, after six years of dishonesty and more than half a million in embezzled funds, he was driving a Porsche.

4: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Julius C. Blackwelder was a bishop of the LDS when he used his position to defraud his congregation into buying into bad real estate. He promised them big returns and long-term contracts, but in truth he was using all their money to repay his own debts and purchase a personal waterfront property. By the time someone shined a light on his fraud in the church, he’d cheated his flock out of almost $500,000.

3: St. Isidore’s Catholic Church

A trio of thieves committed church fraud and made St. Isidore’s their personal piggy bank in 2011. It all started with Kathleen Dake, a 58-year-old community organizer and locally respected mom, who posed as a volunteer to gain access to the finance committee. Once she had the trust of the higher-ups, she and two other partners in crime helped themselves to the money by writing personal checks and making unauthorized credit card charges. All in all, they robbed the parish of nearly $600,000, making theirs one of the largest church fraud detections in California history.

2: Hyde Park Christian Church

This Texas church made a mistake when it trusted Louanne Aponte, the 52-year-old treasurer who would eventually go on to steal more than $1 million from Hyde Park Christian Church, The Texas Association of Child Care Resource, and Family Connections, a childcare services nonprofit. After church fraud detection uncovered her lies, she fled to Venezuela, but not before authorities looked into her history and realized that she had a criminal record with two more embezzling charges from the ’80s. Fraud in the church was a long-standing tradition for Louanne.

1: Baptist Foundation of Arizona

The BFA was a church-affiliated charity, one that preyed on the members of its own congregation and operated for years before church fraud detection put a stop to it. The BFA’s leaders, including a respected pastor and his adult son, used everything from Ponzi schemes to “land flipping” in order to squeeze money out of the community. By the time they went bankrupt in 1999, collapsing under the weight of their own debt, they were more than $460 million in the hole, making them responsible for one of the largest church frauds of modern times.

These are just a few ways fraud in the church has robbed good people out of their hard-earned money. If you suspect any theft or church fraud going in on your community, don’t wait: Speak up now and save yourself and your neighbors from Satan’s greedy influence.

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