Arrests Made In Georgia Church Theft Ring
Scams are common and can involve those that least expect it, such as churches and members. A recent theft ring among Georgia churches has led to more than $150,000 stolen.
According to investigators, 36 churches were victimized in Fayette County alone. The theft is targeting mailed-in donations from members. Three people from Houston were arrested in October. They include a 32-year-old woman and two men, ages 31 and 32.
Since then, four others have been arrested for their role in the theft scheme. They include a 38-year-old woman and three men, ages 36, 36, and 38. All seven are currently housed in Fayette County Jail without bond. All have been charged with violating the RICO Act.
Investigators are looking for 10 more suspects, which would bring the total number of suspects to 17. In total, the theft ring is responsible for stealing more than $1.5 million from churches in 14 states in the Midwest and Southeast. They are accused of stealing checks from church mailboxes and then taking them to Houston and cashing them at ATMs. To prevent this, churches are being asked to secure their mailboxes and offer options such as online tithing to minimize theft.
The list of known churches targeted in Georgia includes:
- Apostolic Christian Church of Peachtree City
- Dogwood Church & Real Life Center
- Christ Church at Whitewater
- Covenant Presbyterian
- Grace Baptist
- Holy Trinity Catholic
- Episcopal Church of the Nativity
- Fayette Presbyterian
- Fayette Samaritans
- Kenwood Baptist
- Lisbon Baptist
- Fayette Seventh Day Adventist
- Fayetteville Church of Christ
- Fayetteville First Baptist
- Flat Creek Baptist
- Grace Evangelical
- Heritage Baptist
- Olivet Baptist
- One Church
- Hopewell United Methodist
- Inman United Methodist
- Peachtree City Christian
- Peachtree City Church of Christ
- Tyrone First Christian
- Whitewater Church
- McDonough Christian
- McDonough Road Baptist
- New Beginning Praise & Worship
- North Fayette United Methodist
- Saint Gabriel/Saint Vincent de Paul
- Saint Matthew
- Peachtree City First Baptist
- Peachtree City United Methodist
- Prince of Peace Lutheran
- Southern Crescent
- South Fayette Church of Christ
What is the RICO Act?
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was enacted in 1970 to fight organized crime. At the federal level, RICO was originally intended to be used to combat the Mafia. It draws from a list of 27 federal crimes and eight state crimes such as theft, fraud, embezzlement, computer crimes, credit scams, investment schemes, money laundering, counterfeiting, human trafficking, illegal gambling, drug charges, bribery, kidnapping, and murder.
Georgia is one of 33 states that has its own RICO statutes. Georgia’s RICO statutes are similar to the federal version, but are much broader in some ways. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors use RICO to take down street gangs and prosecute businesses that break the law.
Contact Us Today
Depending on the amount of money you steal, you could face many years in prison.
A Georgia theft lawyer from Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers can help you get a solid defense to reduce your charges. For a free consultation, call 770-685-6400 or fill out the online form. The firm serves Georgia, including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek, and Sandy Springs.