Former bishop accused of swindling churches out of millions: report

Former bishop accused of swindling churches out of millions: report
Image via African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

The former president of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church’s board of bishops is now entangled in a complex fraud case amid allegations suggesting he swindled a number of his churches to the brink of financial collapse.

According to The Daily Beast, Bishop Staccato Powell and his wife, Quintana, have been indicted on federal charges of fraud and conspiracy in connection with the mismanagement of California properties belonging to his congregations as he fraudulently raked in millions of dollars for personal gain.

Both Powell and his wife are facing a single count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud along with two counts of wire fraud. On Tuesday, February 8, Powell was arrested in Wake Forest, N.C., and his wife was arrested in Vallejo, Calif.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair released a statement about the couple's charges.

“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.,” the statement reads.

On Tuesday, January 25, Justice Department officials in Oakland, Calif., announced the charging documents had been unsealed. “Powell and Quintana did not inform the private lenders of the true facts, and they did not inform the local congregations of the new mortgages using the local church properties as collateral,” the Justice Department said.

In wake of the charges, the AME Zion Church's board released a statement.

“The news of the indictment and arrest of Dr. Staccato Powell and Dr. Sheila Quintana was very troubling to the members of the Board of Bishops,” he said in a statement on behalf of the board. “It has never been the desire of the Board of Bishops to pursue prosecution of Dr. Powell. Our intent was always to restore the property to the congregation(s) that had been foreclosed on.”

The couple is facing the possibility of a maximum of 20 years behind bars for each, individual count, a maximum $250,000 fine, and three years of supervision after being released from prison.

Speaking out about the impending charges, Powell told Religious News Service: “I expect to be totally exonerated."

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