Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice....

People are so goofy. Below is an article about a "minister" (I use that term loosely) who allegedly stole funds from the Southern Baptist International Missionary Board. He has been allegedly caught stealing again. It appears that he was not prosecuted the first time.

Let me just say, fraudsters ALWAYS re-offend if they are not punished. Professional journals are replete with these kinds of stories. Churches or ministries who catch folks stealing from them want to show mercy to the guilty party a la Jesus' words to the adulteress "Go and sin no more". Trust me, you're not helping them. The only thing that is going to help a goofball like this guy is some time in a 6x8 cell with some big ol' boy named Bubba. That, by the way, is my professional opinion.

GULF SHORES, Ala. (ABP) -- The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention declined to press criminal embezzlement charges in 2005 against a man now accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in an Alabama insurance scam.According to legal documents obtained by the Mobile Press-Register , the IMB won a judgment of $359,499.62 against Benton Gray Harvey on March 15, 2005. Associated Baptist Press has learned that Harvey, who went as a missionary by the name of Gray Harvey, was financial accountant for a Baptist outpost in Istanbul, Turkey.IMB trustees fired Harvey over allegations that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked for earthquake relief and reportedly decided against pressing charges citing concerns for missionary safety.

The board settled the case for the amount of loss that could be documented -- though some observers believe the amount actually missing could be larger -- and pledged not to talk about the settlement.Wade Burleson, a former IMB trustee who joined the board after fellow trustees accepted the secrecy pact, said he argued vehemently at his first trustee meeting that the IMB had "a moral obligation" to file criminal charges to no avail.

A receptionist answering the phone Monday at Starfish Insurance Agency in Gulf Shores, Ala., said the business owner had no idea about the IMB's judgment against Harvey when she hired him about two years ago and that if prosecuted he probably would not have been employed because he would be in jail.According to newspaper reports, Harvey and his alleged partner-in-crime, Jonathan W. Adams, cannot be located and may be out of the country. The two former Starfish employees vanished last summer from a condo they shared as roommates, leaving food in the refrigerator and toiletries in the bathroom.

Police say the duo swindled coastal residents by selling fake insurance policies for homes that most insurance companies don't want to cover because they are susceptible to damage by hurricanes. Police believe Harvey was the mastermind, forging documents that he downloaded from the Internet.Wendy Norvelle, an IMB spokesperson, said Monday that Gray Harvey worked with the mission board from November 1998 until September 2003, but she would have to speak with legal counsel and/or administrators before discussing details of the case."What gets my goat is that charges were not filed by the IMB,"

Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., said Monday. He said he argued unsuccessfully that Southern Baptists should have been informed of the embezzlement allegations, even if it meant shutting down mission work in a particular area. "We didn't want people to know," he said of the board majority.Burleson said IMB administrators stumbled onto the problem by accident, when a visitor to the building managed by Harvey decided to use an elevator for which he remembered approving funds, only to learn that it was never installed.

At the 2004 SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., Ron McGowin, at the time youth minister at First Baptist Church in Fairfield, Texas, made a motion seeking an "external comprehensive audit" of funds handled by the IMB's Central Asia region between 1995 and 2005 because he had been told the IMB "at best could only account for $372,831.62 of embezzled monies."The following year the IMB responded to his referred motion by confirming "there was both an audit as well as supplemental procedures accomplished by a qualified certified public accountant regarding Central Asia finances."

"The results of these audit procedures were fully disclosed to the board of trustees of the IMB in November 2004, and appropriate action was taken, the official response continued.Asked last year in San Antonio why the trustees decided against an external audit, IMB President Jerry Rankin told McGowin and other messengers that that an internal audit had been performed, as well as an audit by an outside firm."The trustees were involved in the thorough review of this," Rankin said. "Policies have been put in place to prevent this from happening again."Rankin assured messengers that the board honored its "fiscal responsibility to the convention."


Anonymous said...

So tell me... is this why insurance premiums are so high? Because of crooks like this?

He ought to be hung by his toenails over a pool of piranhas. Grr!

Heidi Reed

Joe Blackmon said...


I'm not sure if this is why premiums are so high but it is something I have to take into account when I'm doing an audit. We have to be on the lookout for stuff that could reflect fraud.

I agree about the piranhas. Or maybe a good butt kicking?