New Orleans Pastor Used Large Chunk of $250,000 Katrina Relief Money to Help Himself

I’ll set you up: A church near New Orleans was given $250,000 to help build “low-income housing for recovering addicts.”

Take a wiiiiiild guess how this story ends.

Yep! You’re right. Not all the money was used for the intended purpose! In fact, most of it went right back into the church itself. And into the wallet of its leader.

Shocking, isn’t it…?

The Living Witness Church of God in Christ in Central City, Louisiana received all that money to build “low-income housing for recovering addicts.” However, a state audit released yesterday (PDF) shows what really happened with the cash:

As of March 29, 2010, Rev. Pierre had spent the entire $250,000. However, he only spent $114,915 of the $250,000 in accordance with the grant. He used the remaining $135,085 to pay the organization’s “daily operating expenses.” In addition, as of March 29, 2010, the building was still in complete disrepair and uninhabitable, and neither the church nor the Social Service organization had funds available to make the repairs and renovations it originally agreed to do.

The inspector general said much of the money was comingled. Its examination of church bank accounts found that in 2008 and 2009 Pierre issued himself 11 checks totalling $32,810, “including a $20,000 check … classified as an anniversary gift.”

He also paid himself $41,000 in regular housing allowances, the report said.

The church allegedly also paid two church members a total of nearly $10,000 “as honorariums for services performed.”

During the March 29th inspection, here’s what the building that was supposed to be fixed up with the quarter-million dollars looked like:

How the hell are you supposed to recover from a drug addiction when you live in a place like that…?

The Inspector General is suggesting that the state work to get its money back and consider criminal prosecution. More power to them — I hope they get this conman.

No doubt some churches can handle this kind of money effectively, but without better accountability and harsher punishments, it’s not a surprise to see some of them abuse the privilege. They’re no more moral than any other group of people. So why does our society give them undeserved respect as a whole? We’re better off giving the money to secular agencies with leaders who can be held accountable for the responsibilities they’re tasked with — who care more about the people needing the housing instead of their own bank accounts.

(via Believe It or Not)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Kristin Ingstrup

    As a long time reader/lurker, I feel the need to speak up on this post: The government should sue to get the money back and bring the pastor to court.  While I agree that what the pastor did was wrong and greedy, it’s what the pastor did, not the church. 

    But when you say “We’re better off giving the money to secular agencies with leaders who
    can be held accountable for the responsibilities they’re tasked with —
    who care more about the people needing the housing instead of their own
    bank accounts.”, I do think it carries an offensive connotation.  I’m no fan of the church, but I am a fan of human decency.  I think a lot of people volunteer through their church because the church offers volunteerism on a wider level, giving people a bigger chance to show that they are decent. And when talking about inter-faith activism, we should treat all charities on the same level because we should assume that all people are decent human beings, sometimes even good ones. 

    I don’t think that most church-goers are bad people. And the people I’ve met through church soup kitchens, homeless shelters, Habitat for Humanity, etc. all care very much about the people needing the housing. In fact, often times they’re the ones who throw their money into the project and get it started or volunteer so much it could count as a second job.  Instead of letting this post say that secular leaders can be held more accountable than church leaders, maybe next time call for greater accountability across the board?  I’m sure secular charity leaders have done the same so perhaps what we need is greater government oversight and more encouragement to watchdog groups.

    • kairanN

      I would also add that the leaders of secular non profit organizations are responsible for their share of scandal and mismanagement too.  Greed and corruption are not unique to the devout.

      • Anonymous

        It’s not just religious charities. There are plenty of cases of priests embezzling money from their congregations

    • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

      “so perhaps what we need is greater government oversight and more encouragement to watchdog groups.”
      Bingo.

      • http://twitter.com/donbvonb .

        yeah lets go ahead and put cameras on everyones hands so we can see what everyone is doing at all times. oh and why not assign each person someone to follow them and record their actions, then they can make their own blog about it and we can all go jerk off on it

        • Mingus

          I think by oversight he meant perhaps having a plan for the $250k that spells out what will be done with the money and a fixed completion date.  So, when projects like this go into disarray it is really easy to hold them accountable.

    • http://twitter.com/donbvonb .

      as a long time lurker of this place, you need to find a better news source. The author of this page is a criminal. http://hehmant-mehta.on.nimp.org

      • Rich Wilson

        Link contains malware.  Flagged.

  • Annie

    I agree with Heman’t statement, “They are no more moral than any other group of people.  So why does our society give them undeserved respect as a whole?”  Yes, of course any person can commit fraud, but it appears to happen quite frequently amongst those who run churches, particularly those that are not affiliated with a larger sect or “brand” of church (which I believe do have their own watchdogs in place… you have to get that money to the Vatican somehow).   There was a state audit, as that is how they found this discrepancy.  I’m not sure what else can be done short of micromanaging every grant given out. 

    • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

      “I’m not sure what else can be done short of micromanaging every grant given out.”
      If these clowns cannot manage our money properly, then they should not be allowed to give out grants. The government serves at our pleasure and they are stewards of our tax money, not the owners. It’s not micromanaging, it’s doing their fricking job.

      • Annie

        From the document Hemant provided, it appears the funds were given to the church from the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, a private, non-profit.  So, it doesn’t appear this was from tax money, at least not all of it.  The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals was also listed, and it said that $25,000 of state funds was misused.    I’m unclear if the state audit is general practice.  If so, there already is a safety net in place to catch this type of fraud. 

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    This isn’t the first time a scammer has misused a government grant. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…
    The other bad guys here are the government assholes doling out taxpayers money without having  better oversight in place than they currently do. No, there is nothing in existence that can guarantee a 100% fraud free system, but they could have set up a revolving credit type of account to where the grant recipients must produce valid invoices and original PO’s to the respective government agency before funds are released. Not unlike what is done when a general contractor builds a new home for a client. The general contractor draws funds as needed from the lender, producing receipts or invoices for each draw.
    The idiots in charge of disbursing these taxpayer funded grants should be cooling their heels in prison alongside the preacher.

    • http://twitter.com/donbvonb .

      fool you twice, you’re an idiot. this is new orleans, money disappears. has nothing to do with religion or politics, it has to do with the elder generation “taking care” of the younger generation in the form of nepotism and investments. “the idiots” bleh bleh blah, it’s all bullshit bro. EVERYONE is in on it, except for y’all idiots who just blog about “facts” that some persian douchebag conjures up. go hypothesize somewhere that counts like haiti, shits not gonna change here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    put the fraud aside for a moment. $114,915 was used to build that house. That’s what $115k buys? It looks like a clubhouse some kids built out of scraps.

    • http://twitter.com/donbvonb .

      yeah? well you look like a fake comment. you know what 115k can buy? a politician. a police officer. your comment is dumb and so are you for believing anything that’s on this bullshit site

  • Clarinet Box

    Central City, Louisiana;
    A delightfully spacious converted barn, well ventilated, fixer-upper.  Blessed by current landlord.  A stone’s throw from church.  Can quickly be converted into an ark in case of flood.  Applicants should be gulli… godly folk.  Pay in cash.

    • http://twitter.com/donbvonb .

      actually amusing, likely someone who thinks this is legit.

      OP go spam your blog on nola.com where all the dipshits hang out and suck each other’s cocks

  • http://twitter.com/donbvonb .

    this is bullshit . 

  • Ashlyn

    Augh.  I’ve lived in New Orleans for all my life, aside from the time I spent displaced post-K.  This is so disgusting I don’t even know what to say about it.

  • Anonymous

    *Gasp* people given money with no clear mandate and no oversight prove to be dishonest?  Whatever next.  Misplaced trust is the issue here.  A thieving pastor stole money from good intentioned people who wanted to help others and left those in need of help without it.  I’m pretty sure that there are laws about that.


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