Indicted for "unlawfully divert[ing] Community Center funds for his own personal benefit in the approximate amount of $933,507.80":
Rev. Willard Jones, a pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, faces three counts of wire fraud and one count of tax fraud. FOX23 learned a community center the church built was the vision of Jones. He helped design it and raised funds to build it. The U.S. attorney said he was also stealing a lot of those funds and living an expensive life, instead of serving this high-poverty area.
The church and the community center are in South Haven, a historically African-American community along the Tulsa-Sapulpa Union railway, southeast of the western I-44 / I-244 junction.
The South Haven neighborhood in West Tulsa was originally established in 1919 as an outlet for black families overflowing the city's then-flourishing Greenwood district. Following the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, the population of South Haven swelled quickly with those fleeing the destruction in North Tulsa. By the time South Haven was annexed into the City of Tulsa in the mid-1960s, what had been a working class black area was largely integrated and the area fell into rapid decline. With absentee ownership and property vacancies becoming the norm, this "transitional neighborhood" experienced a sharp increase in crime and social problems.
South Haven was annexed into the City of Tulsa in the 1960s. If I recall correctly, prior to annexation the area had neither running water nor sewer. Assessor records show a handful of houses from the 1950s, a Tulsa Housing Authority subdivision built in the early 1970s, and many Habitat for Humanity homes built in the 2000s.
According to the church's website, Jones became pastor of the church in 1996 when the then 70-year-old church had only five members. The website states that the community center cost $7 million to build.
Here is the federal indictment of Willard Jones.
Jones shows up in a few cases on OSCN, including this ticket for speeding in Stillwater. According to the docket record, the fine was paid by the church.
OSCN also shows some larcenies by someone named William Leonard Jones, who has the same date of birth as the William Lenord Jones who had his speeding fine paid by Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church. That could be a coincidence or a clerical error.
The U. S. Attorney's Office of the Northern District of Oklahoma issued a press release on the Willard Jones indictment:
As the Executive Director, Jones oversaw the design, construction and fundraising for building the Community Center. Jones solicited monetary contributions from donors, including, foundations, corporations, churches and individuals, to fund the development project.
The scheme to defraud charged in the Information accuses Jones of fraudulently transferring funds from Community Center bank accounts to Church bank accounts and then transferring those funds into personal bank accounts; and, that Jones made large cash withdrawals from the Church bank account that he then used for personal expenses.
Rather than pay for construction operating costs of the Community Center, Jones used the proceeds of his fraud scheme for luxury items, including, hotels, restaurants, casinos, liquor, automobiles, a Rolex watch and a mink coat.
Rev. Willard Jones has just been nominated as a candidate for the Bishop Eddie Long Award for Worst Pastor of 2014. The FBI, U.S. Attorney, and the IRS have all confirmed that Rev. Willard can’t account for more than $900k in money intended for a Neighborhood Community Center. Money that could have helped struggling families in Tulsa was used to buy hotels, restaurants, gambling at casinos, liquor, automobiles and luxury items including a Rolex watch and a monogrammed mink fur coat with matching hat and gloves.
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As confirmed by FOX23.com
A local pastor was charged in federal court Wednesday in the embezzlement of almost a million dollars from a community center his church built.
Rev. Willard Jones, a pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, faces three counts of wire fraud and one count of tax fraud. FOX23 learned a community center the church built was the vision of Jones. He helped design it and raised funds to build it.
The U.S. attorney said he was also stealing a lot of those funds and living an expensive life, instead of serving this high-poverty area.
FOX23 was there when Jones broke ground on the community center and when it opened in September 2011. U.S. Attorney Danny Williams said the executive board of the community center did an internal audit in 2013 when Jones said there weren’t enough operating funds.
“About $500,000 was missing. Reverend Jones would not cooperate with that audit, and subsequently the FBI was contacted,” said Williams.
An investigation by the FBI found jones had taken more than $933,000 in all.
“When in fact, he was spending the stolen funds on hotels, restaurants, gambling at casinos, liquor, automobiles and luxury items including a Rolex watch and a monogrammed mink fur coat with matching hat and gloves,” said Williams.
According to court documents, he also used money to pay for work on his house. “Based on our investigation, there are no funds left,” said Williams.
IRS Special Agent Damon Rowe told FOX23 Jones also lied on his taxes and did not report close to $400,000.
“Our agents are committed to making sure that we follow the money to the end, and we’ll leave no stone unturned,” said Rowe.
Jones stepped down from his post as executive director of the community center, but remains pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church. Williams said the crimes he’s accused of committing against the community center affect a lot more people.
“Mr. Jones failed to honor the trust of the community, which needed revitalization,” said Williams.
Jones is scheduled for his first appearance in court next Friday.