MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP) — Memphis police are investigating a report accusing a man of swindling people out of money by saying he was planting a Southern Baptist church, sponsored by Bellevue Baptist Church in nearby Cordova, Tenn.
Police are investigating an incident report filed Sept. 16 by Latoya Nicole Hare of Memphis against 22-year-old Jaycolby Marchel Robinson, according to a copy of the report Memphis Police emailed Baptist Press. Identified as additional victims are Ricquel Lanette Hull and Regina Taylor Osei.
Robinson allegedly hired Hare as his personal assistant for $46,000 a year, Osei as an associate pastor at $48,000 a year, and Hull as director of hospitality for $25,000 a year. But he never paid them for the few weeks they worked, according to the report. Instead, they paid him $20 each for background checks, they told police.
Bellevue Baptist Church Pastor Steve Gaines told Baptist Press he is familiar with the accusation.
“We have not sponsored his church,” Gaines told BP Wednesday (Oct. 2). “Allegedly, he said that we were sponsoring him and he had talked to a relatively small group of people and told them that. And we have never sponsored him and we are not going to sponsor him.”
BP confirmed with Memphis police that its Economic Crimes Division is investigating a “false pretenses/swindle/confidence game” complaint filed in the matter. No charges have been filed in the case.
Robinson allegedly identified his church plant as Greater Victory Church at 84 E. Fairway Ave. Robinson told the women Bellevue Baptist had committed $1.8 million to the plant over a two-year period, Memphis FOX 13 News reported Sept. 30, but the amount was not listed in the report.
Gaines cautioned the public always to verify claims of church plants before making financial contributions or accepting offers of employment.
“Always do due diligence if they say that they are being sponsored by a church, before you give anybody any money,” said Gaines, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Ask for names and contact information of the congregation identified as a sponsor, he said.
“Really vet the process,” Gaines said. “If you’re going to give money, you ought to vet to see if they’re being legitimate…. That’s the way I would do. I would call someone and say, ‘They’re saying that you’re sponsoring them. Is that correct?’ If it’s not, then I would report them to the officials, whoever that might be.”
BP was unable to reach the alleged victims. According to FOX 13, Robinson also hired a Charles Lyles as a security director at a salary of $2,500 a week, which was allegedly never paid.
Robinson allegedly operated the church Aug. 2–Sept. 8, according to the police report.