The Pastor in the Mink Coat
TULSA (CN) - An Oklahoma pastor stole $933,500 from a community center he ran, and used some of the money to buy himself a Rolex watch and a mink coat with matching hat and gloves, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Willard Lenord Jones, 63, of Tulsa, was charged with three counts of wire fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return.
Prosecutors say Jones stole the money from September 2007 to June 2013 from the Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church and the Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project.
The project built a community center in the South Haven neighborhood in West Tulsa. The center provides medical, dental and mental health services, family and youth counseling, food, clothing, job-skills training and after-school programs.
Jones was executive director of the community center, overseeing design, construction and fund-raising.
Prosecutors say Jones fraudulently transferred donations from community center bank accounts into church bank accounts, then money into his personal accounts.
"Rather than pay for construction operating costs of the Community Center, Jones used the proceeds of his fraud scheme for luxury items, including, hotels, restaurants, casinos, liquor, automobiles, a Rolex watch and a mink coat," prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday. "In addition, Jones was charged with one count of subscribing to a false 2011 Form 1040 U.S. Individual Income Tax because he didn't report approximately $390,061 of income on that return."
Prosecutors demand Jones hand over the Rolex, the mink coat with matching hat and gloves and real estate in Tulsa and Osage Counties.
If convicted, Jones faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud and 3 years for the tax fraud count. He also faces up to a $1 million forfeiture money judgment.
Rossalyn Wilson, project administrative assistant, told Courthouse News the community center "remains committed " to serving west Tulsa.
"Our prayers are with Pastor Jones and family during this difficult time," she said in a statement Thursday. "Pastor Jones is the founder and was the major fund raiser for the Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project. Our goal as the administrative staff of the community center is to remain dedicated to the original vision. The center is a welcoming multigenerational environment for a variety of educational, cultural, recreational and social services."
The community center functions as a point of delivery for third-party agencies, including the Green Country Council of Girl Scouts, Camp Fire USA, Goodwill Industries, Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and Counseling and Recovery Services of Oklahoma, according to its website.