Saturday, September 19, 2009                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested for theft and money laundering

The pastor of the Solid Rock Christian Center in Ventura and his wife were arrested Thursday for allegedly duping an elderly man into signing over the deed to his home.

Alonzo Gene McCowan, commonly known as the Rev. Lonnie McCowan, 49, was charged with two counts of theft from an elderly person and two counts of money laundering in an amount that surpassed $500,000, according to a felony complaint.

His wife, Kimberly Ann Oglesby McCowan, 45, is charged with one count of grand theft and one count of money laundering in the same complaint.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Miles Weiss said the McCowans, who live in Camarillo, were booked Thursday with bail set at $500,000 for McCowan and $40,000 for his wife.

Phone calls to their attorney and Solid Rock Christian Center were not returned.

Alonzo Gene McCowan is accused of taking advantage of Leo Gilmond, now 86, by getting him to sign over the deed to his Ventura house in October 2004. In exchange, the pastor promised to pay Gilmond $460,000. McCowan told Gilmond “he wanted to buy the home so he could use it as a rental for church dignitaries and students,” according to an affidavit filed by Frank Huber, investigating officer for the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.

When negotiating the purchase, McCowan told Gilmond he needed a signed grant deed that “would be held in the church office solely for the purpose of verifying the purchase of the property to church leaders and to demonstrate his authority to rent the property,” the affidavit states. It adds that Gilmond “knew signing a grant deed was risky but he trusted (A. McCowan) because he represented himself as a religious man; it was these religious representations that made Gilmond more trusting of (A. McCowan).”

In the years that followed, the McCowans made installment payments totaling $10,000 according to the agreement, said investigators. A balloon payment of $450,000 was due in January 2008. When Gilmond tried to collect it, he found his home was in foreclosure, according to court records.

According to the investigator, “Gilmond was in disbelief. (A. McCowan) admitted to Gilmond that he had taken out a $420,000 loan on the property and had lost the money in the stock market.”

McCowan offered to continue the monthly payments while he worked with the bank but Gilmond went to his son, Gary Gilmond, and attorney Greg Jones to find out how McCowan was able to take out the $420,000 loan, according to the affidavit. They learned the McCowans had withdrawn $420,000 in equity by refinancing the property in Kimberly McCowan’s name.

Gilmond filed a civil lawsuit against the McCowans. It was settled a year ago, but the details were unavailable Thursday. And Jones would not disclose the amount without the consent of his client, Gilmond, who could not be reached for comment.

Huber, the DA investigator, stated he stumbled upon evidence this summer that indicated McCowan purchased a $480,000 property on Sonora Drive in Camarillo “about five to six months after the $420,000 was allegedly stolen” from Gilmond. The evidence was seized in Palm Desert, while Huber was investigating a Ponzi scheme operated by Terry Tucker and Cheri Tucker, both of whom are awaiting sentencing in federal court on Sept. 28.

The Tuckers, the former proprietors of Tucker Realty and Tucker Mortgage, pleaded guilty in March to two counts of bank fraud. They had homes in Thousand Oaks, San Diego and Lake Arrowhead, as well as property in the Palm Springs.

McCowan “told me some of the money for the ($143,000) down payment on the Sonora property was borrowed from the Tuckers,” Huber states in the affidavit.

Investigators allege the Sonora Drive property — which has been foreclosed on — was purchased by McCowan with a $336,000 loan from Downey Savings and Loan Association, and the mortgage broker was Terry Tucker.

The Tuckers’ files held loan applications in the name of “Jene Lonny McCowan,” an alias used by McCowan, according to Huber. The mortgage loan application prepared by Terry Tucker showed McCowan’s employment as director of Solid Rock Christian Center, “where he purportedly earned $35,200 a month.”

Court records show McCowan told Huber “this was not true and his church income was less than $5,000 a month,” and that the $35,200 a month was money he earned from investments and speaking events.

McCowan advertises “multiple streams of income seminar programs” on his Web site “LonnieMcCowan.com.”

“He has learned how to create multiple streams of income,” according to the Web site. “Mr. McCowan says, ‘It is an absolute phenomenon!’ and he wants to teach others how to do the same thing.”

The Solid Rock Christian Center, 5105 Walker St., has 1,500 members, according to the church’s Web site.

If convicted, McCowan faces a maximum of 15 years, four months in prison, with $1.74 million in fines plus restitution. His wife faces a maximum of six years and four months in prison, with $250,000 in fines plus actual restitution.

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