SELF-styled American bishop ‘Dr’ Tracie Dickey, above, has received a 12-year jail sentence for imposing forced labour of her church members and defrauding hotels.
Dicky, 57, also known Tracie Williams, headed Deliverance Tabernacle Ministries which has branches in Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina.
The “bishop” said in her defence that that her treatment of ministry members was protected by the First Amendment and the ministerial exemption from federal law.
A motion filed at her trial said her conduct:
Was religiously motivated or protected.
This cut no ice with US District Judge Sara L Ellis of the Northern District of Illinois, who said Dickey’s argument, originally presented at her trial by jury in 2019:
Was undeveloped, and as such the court will not consider it.
The jury found her guilty of wire fraud and forced labour, but the sentence was only imposed on her last week by judge Ellis.
According to a Department of Justice press release, Dickey ran a hotel scheme in which she forced church members to work at various hotels, bringing in more than $66,000 in fraudulent proceeds while also collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars earned by ministry members.
The DOJ stated:
Dickey emotionally and physically abused the members and coerced them into following her rules. Several of Dickey’s victims testified at trial about their ordeals.
Dickey’s tactics included starving and humiliating church members, forcing some of them into homelessness, and threatening that God would harm their families if they did not comply with Dickey’s rules.
The DOJ also revealed that:
She purported to operate a travel agency known as World Ambassador Travel. Evidence at trial revealed that Dickey recruited young women to become members of the ministry, and directed them to work multiple jobs, including as desk clerks at hotels.
She instructed the members on how to have the hotels pay reservation-commission fees to Dickey’s travel agency, even though her agency never actually booked reservations on behalf of the hotel guests. The hotel scheme resulted in at least $66,525 in fraudulent proceeds.
Between her 2019 conviction and her sentencing, Dickey continued to promote her ministry efforts. In a May, 2020, press release she was identified as “an Apostle, Prophetess, Evangelist, Author, and Educator,” as well as “a God-appointed Bishop” with:
A divine calling to spread His gospel throughout the nation and the world.
The release added:
Like Jesus Christ himself, Bishop Tracie Williams Dickey of Pittsburgh has a great heart for the people of God. From her seat in Pittsburgh and numerous guest spots the world over, she delivers her prophesy and life-changing messages of hope, empowerment, and deliverance.
In a 2016 motivational video, Dickey introduced herself as “CEO and entrepreneur of Destiny Enterprises,” and proceeds to give tips to budding high achievers on how to develop “excellence” in their respective fields. The smooth-talking charlatan adds:
Your destiny is very important me. There’s a winner inside of you. You can achieve your goals.