Friday, September 26, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

PASTOR SENTENCED TO 17 MONTHS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR THEFT OF HIS CONGREGATION’S HURRICANE RELIEF FUNDS

From the FBI website:

NOAH A. THOMAS, JR., age 42, a resident of Marrero, Louisiana, was sentenced in federal court today by U. S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt to seventeen (17) months imprisonment for mail fraud in connection with funds granted to the church he ministered, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten.

According to the court documents, THOMAS plead guilty on April 9, 2008 to a one-count Bill of information. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, THOMAS was the pastor of Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. When Katrina hit, the congregation’s building at 2241 South Liberty Street in New Orleans was devastated by flood water. The Church did not have flood insurance so the congregation applied for a SBA loan and a grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to offset the cost of rebuilding. The Church was awarded a $252,000 disaster loan from the SBA and a $35,000 grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.

According to the factual basis, THOMAS created a scheme to defraud the Church of the $35,000 Bush-Clinton grant funds for his own personal benefit by having the $35,000 check from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund mailed to his house and then deposited into a bank account that he established and controlled. THOMAS created a similar scheme to defraud the Church of the SBA loan money by having the SBA wire the initial $10,000 disbursement of the disaster loan into the same bank account. THOMAS spent at least $10,000 of the relief money on a new Dodge Durango for himself.

Court documents also revealed that the church was unaware that THOMAS had obligated the small aging congregation for a $39,327.06 loan from ACI Financial, Inc., for church furniture and accessories that was to be repaid at $1,034.57 a month for 60 months. The loan amount, which was paid in two installments to a church furniture and accessories vendor was to pay for computers, desks, carpeting, and church pews. The vendor cut checks totaling $12,800 payable to THOMAS after each loan installment was paid to it by ACI Financial, Inc. Although THOMAS attested to ACI Financial, Inc. that all items contracted for had been delivered by the vendor, the church did not receive all of the items.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Small Business Administration–Office of Inspector General, and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Emily K. Greenfield and Michael McMahon.

In another report:

U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt sentenced Noah A. Thomas, Jr. to 17 months in federal prison for mail fraud in connection with funds granted to the church he ministered, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten.

Court documents also show that Thomas created a scheme to defraud the Church of the $35,000 Bush-Clinton grant funds for his own personal benefit by having the $35,000 check mailed to his house and then deposited into a bank account that he established and controlled. Thomas created a similar scheme to defraud the church of the SBA loan money by having the SBA wire the initial $10,000 disbursement of the disaster loan into the same bank account. Thomas spent at least $10,000 of the relief money on a new Dodge Durango for himself.

According to the court documents, Thomas pleaded guilty on April 9, to a one-count bill of information. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Thomas was the pastor of Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.

When Katrina hit, the congregation’s building at 2241 South Liberty Street in New Orleans was devastated by floodwater. The church did not have flood insurance so the congregation applied for a SBA loan and a grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to offset the cost of rebuilding. The church was awarded a $252,000 disaster loan from the SBA and a $35,000 grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.

The court sentenced Thomas to the 17 month prison term and ordered him to repay the funds over 60 monthly payments.

STORY LINK

For a PDF copy of the court record, click here.