A pastor was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $631,271 from taxpayer-funded AIDS and addiction charities, but his legal defense team claims he was “entitled to” the money.
Rev. Reginald Williams, the leader of Queens-based Charity Baptist Church of Christ, is accused of stealing from the Addicts Rehabilitation Center Foundation Inc. (where he was chairman of the board) and the Addicts Rehabilitation Center Fund Inc. (where he was president and CEO), according to the prosecution.
The ARC Foundation and the ARC Fund are taxpayer-funded not-for-profit entities that contract with City and State agencies to provide housing and social services to New Yorkers with substance and alcohol use disorders, HIV/AIDS, and others.
While the so-called Holy Man is the primary defendant in the case, the president of the foundation, Naomi Barrera, and the president of a consulting group, Bennie Hadnott, were also charged for their alleged roles in the amoral fraud scheme.
What did they do? In one case, Hadnott’s group was given a $40,000/year contract for financial services… 25% of which was kicked back to Williams via a shell company. At other times, Williams submitted reimbursement claims for food and alcohol to both organizations “to receive double the reimbursement.” He also “falsely inflated expenses” and made reimbursement requests for personal expenses even though he claimed he was on business.
Ultimately, he’s charged with taking money for “personal gain” even though both groups were struggling to make payments to employees.
Part of the problem is that Williams, as a religious leader, built up a level of trust that allowed this alleged fraud to occur for so long. In fact, the extensive bio on his church’s website brags about the pastor’s “fiscal integrity,” projecting even more confidence to church members and potential victims of financial crimes.
Charity is a “tithing church” and Pastor Williams is deeply committed to “doing everything decent and in order”, fiscal integrity and “accountable stewardship”. Individual quarterly financial statements of members’ tithes and offering are distributed and all of Charity’s financial transactions are audited annually by a leading, independent certified public accounting firm.
His attorney, however, has claimed his client was actually entitled to the money.
Williams’ attorney Paul Martin said his client personally raised over $14 million for the foundation and “every dime received (from the nonprofits) he was entitled to.”
“The board made the decision to pay my client, to pay him for the years in which he got no salary,” the lawyer said.
Williams has been the leader of Charity Baptist Church of Christ in the Bronx for 26 years and is known for his “spirit of generosity,” according to the church’s website.
A jury will soon decide whether those descriptions are accurate. Needless to say, if the allegations are true, it’s hard to imagine the board signed off on fraud. If they just wanted to give him a raise or reward on the basis of his fundraising, there are perfectly legal ways to do that. The prosecution is clear that the evidence shows otherwise.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Brian for the link)