Photo: New Jerusalem Full Gospel Church
By Tanya Terry
Patrick Sanders, senior pastor of New Jerusalem Full Gospel Church, wants to warn the public about an individual he reported to police as a scammer. This individual is suspected of taking over $300 from others within a week, using a scam.
Sanders first heard of a community member who gave the alleged scammer approximately $20. The church was informed of this recently.
“About a week ago, one of deacons was here on a Monday. We’re particularly closed on Mondays. But they were here doing some work, and a person approached them and asked what was going on. Supposedly, the person’s tire was flat that they gave the money to. He said he was a van driver for the church. He said he wanted to get back to the church to get some work done. We don’t have van drivers who do that kind of work. Our bus operates pretty well,” Sanders said.
He and others affiliated with the church thought that would be a one-time incident. But, on Tuesday March 3, four community members showed up at the church with similar stories. The community members explained they were told if they gave the alleged scammer money they could go to the church and be paid back.
“The guy told them to see Pastor Sanders, and he’ll reimburse you for the money. Once we had that many people come to us telling us the same thing in one day, we knew there was a problem,” Sanders said.
Another young lady showed up on Wednesday March 4.
“Supposedly, she had given this person $200. There was unfortunately nothing we could really do for her because that’s not our policy, procedure or standards that we operate by.”
Although the church only recently reported these incidents to the authorities, Sanders said he was talking to someone at New Jerusalem’s community center.
“He said pastor this has been going on for about a month. We’ve got people coming to the community center almost every other day saying they were told you would reimburse people. We told them we didn’t have any idea about this.”
Sanders said he wanted to let the community know that neither New Jerusalem Full Gospel Church nor any of its employees are not associated with this individual.
“It’s a little sad because they seem to know the role New Jerusalem plays in the community. So, it’s an easy target to say to someone I go to New Jerusalem, and this is what I’m doing, and I need money to get back to church.”
Sanders also pointed out the individual seems to know some of the workings of the church.
“They are telling people they are a bus driver or a band member.”
For this reason, Sanders believes it is quite possible this individual may have visited the church or have relatives or friends in the church.
The individual does not appear to be violent, according to Sanders.
Sanders said he considers those who gave the individual money to be trying to do something good. However, he advises others who encounter this individual to contact police immediately, telling them his last location and giving any other details they can.
“We really don’t want to be giving money to people on the street, given the atmosphere we’re currently in and the climate. If anyone is soliciting them, we definitely want to be made aware of it. We also don’t want to be seen as a church that would allow that kind of stigma. Money is hard to come by sometimes for people. So, we don’t want them to be taken advantage of, especially using our name. Our name is well established with helping the community. We don’t want anyone misrepresenting what we’re doing.”
Detective Sergeant Tyrone Booth, Intelligence Bureau/public information officer for the city of Flint Police Department was not able to provide any additional information on this case due to the fact the investigation is ongoing.