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City Says Minister Abused Federal Grants

TULSA (CN) - Tulsa claims that after a minister got $456,000 in HUD grants to buy a rundown building and convert it into a youth center, he didn't fix up the building as promised, but mortgaged it to get another $3.4 million to build a church somewhere else - a deal forbidden by terms of the HUD grants. The city sued Harold W. Jones Ministries, Full Gospel Family Outreach Ministries and Jones himself, in Tulsa County Court.

The city claims that Jones, pastor of his namesake ministry, violated federal guidelines after getting $456,147 in federal Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants. The money was to be used to buy a distressed property and rehabilitate it for use as a community center, to be called the Generation of Destiny Youth Center, the complaint states.

But the city says Jones used to the money improperly, by taking out mortgages on the property within 5 years of getting the federal assistance. It says that ministry officials acknowledge that the youth center is not operable and that no youth or community outreach programs ever took place there.

Now the city is on the hook to repay the money, because as administrator of the grant, the money was given to the city to be disbursed to Jones, according to the complaint.

Jones and his ministries got the HUD grants in 2004, 2006 and 2008, the city says. But during a site visit in March 2009, city officials found that Jones had mortgaged the property 4 months earlier to get money to build a church, the Full Gospel Family Outreach Ministries, at a different place.

The city said it repeatedly tried to get Jones to repay the federal money, but has not been able to achieve a satisfactory arrangement.

In the meantime, HUD has agreed to let the city repay the money in five annual installments, the first four at $91,300 and the last one at $90,947.

The city seeks damages for breach of contract, and declaratory relief, holding it "harmless from and against all demands, claims, suits or negligence caused by the ministry, its subcontractors, employees and agents."

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