Virginia Pastor and Wife Arrested After Allegedly Defrauding Church Members of $1.2 Million

A Christian couple ran a church. They took in lots of money in order to help the less fortunate… and then used it to help themselves. At this point, these stories are a dime a dozen.

But it’s still worth talking about if for no other reason than it reminds people that faith is not a virtue, and religion can sometimes be a con game.

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Terry Wayne Millender, 52, the senior pastor of Victorious Life Church in Alexandria, along with his wife, Brenda, 56, and Grenetta Wells, 55, who is affiliated with the church, were indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

The charges were released Monday after Wells was arrested. The Millenders and Wells operated a company called Micro-Enterprise Management Group, a Virginia company that alleged to help poor people in developing countries by providing small, short-term loans to start or expand existing businesses by working with a network of established micro-finance institutions, according to a press release.

Instead, a lot of the money they collected went to paying off their $1.75 million home.

What’s really interesting about this case is that members of the church suspected there was something fishy going on, but they didn’t do anything about it. Check out what one member said after the arrests:

“It didn’t really come as a shock — it was more of a sigh of relief,” Eric Brown said of the arrests.

Brown said his own family invested thousands of dollars into their pastor’s “business.” But they are not part of the federal case.

“I asked him like, ‘Hey, that’s a nice car,'” Brown recalled. “He said, ‘Yeah, $100,000 car. If you save up your money, God’s going to bless you.’ Come to find out now, it was actually part of our money.”

How many churches like this exist, where the prosperity gospel preacher lives in luxury while the congregation serves as a perpetual ATM? How many of those churches refuse to be transparent about their finances, even to their own members? At what point should church members demand a true accounting of the cash instead of trusting their pastors?

It never changes and that’s why we’re bound to see these stories again in the future.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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