Friday, April 22, 2005

Bishop commits bank fraud - The News-Press

An Episcopal bishop accused of defrauding a Fort Myers bank — and spending some of the money on a fancy car, expensive clothes and jewelry — pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and money laundering.

Bishop Michael Wayne Lewis of Tampa — who is not affiliated with the Episcopal Church of the United States — told U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas N. Frazier he directed the conspiracy that concocted phony financial data to get $3.8 million in loans from AmSouth Bank. [emphasis added]

“We used collateral that was not there,” Lewis said. “I think it started in July 2003 and continued to December 2003.”
Royal we? And why does the article open by calling Lewis an Episcopal bishop and then go a paragraph before pointing out (clarifying would be too strong a word) he's not.

What he is:

At the time of his arrest, Lewis was minister of Harvest Fellowship Bible Church, which has locations in Tampa, Riverview and Ocala.

He also operated numerous other church organizations, including Word of Faith Assembly in Christ, Judah Elementary Christian School and Little Eagle’s Pre-School.

The phony loans were discovered after the pastor of Firehouse Christian Center in Tampa learned Lewis took a loan out at AmSouth Bank in his church’s name without his knowledge.

Investigators discovered a pattern of fraud involving inflated estimates of Lewis’ church membership, his church’s income and financial status.
Hmmm. Lots of legitimate churches inflate their membership numbers for various reasons. Few err on the side of caution. Perhaps, if they are taking out a loan, they should be more careful.

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