After defrauding the federal government of $14 million in loans, two pastors face up to 20 years in jail.
After obtaining the loans under false pretenses, Sheila Quintana, 67, and Staccato Powell, 62, were arrested and charged with wire fraud and conspiracy. The deceitful pastors, who were leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion), were officers of the ruling Episcopal district churches in the Western region of California, known as the Western Episcopal District (WED).
Authorities believe that the two heathens defrauded the federal government of $14 million by acquiring control of several temples and exploiting churches to gain access to finances that benefited them solely. From October 2016 through July 2021, Quintana and Powell defrauded the government.
The prosecutor issued a statement in response to the heinous conduct, according to the LA Times.
“The indictment alleges that Powell and Quintana conspired to defraud AME Zion Church congregations in Oakland, San Jose, Palo Alto, and Los Angeles by re-deeding the local congregations’ properties in the name of WED Inc.”
Powell, who was a bishop in the church, was charged with one count of mail fraud, as well as numerous counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.
The churches involved in the intricate plan had little to no debt when it began. Quintana and Powell are accused of falsifying bank statements, omitting crucial information, and fabricating documentation to show that the congregations approved the new mortgages.
The mortgages included exorbitant interest rates, and the couple used the church buildings as security. Quintana and Powell benefited from the proceeds of the mortgages.
Quintana put the money up front for her husband, while Powell used it to buy real estate in North Carolina. He also paid off a previous loan.
The con artists’ scheme came to an end in 2019 when the churches’ loans went into default. Leaders of the AME Zion Church asked that Powell hand up the deeds to their individual churches.
“By mid-2020, all of the hard money loans were in default, and WED Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection,” the indictment uttered.
On January 25, the errant bishop was apprehended in Wake Forest, North Carolina. In Vallejo, California, his shady collaborator was apprehended. On February 2, 2022, they will appear in a Northern District court in California via Zoom.
The Rev. Kaloma Smith, the pastor at University AME Zion, said, “We are grateful to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for bringing this case forward. We are grateful that somebody heard our cry and started moving on that, and we are grateful for those in the community who knew and supported us.”