AG Brown investigates alleged church scams

Kathy Woods Nov. 21, 2009, 1:00pm

Jerry Brown (D)

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline)-California Attorney General Jerry Brown is investigating whether more than 30 African American churches were ripped off for tens of thousands of dollars.

Michael Morris, Willie Perkins, Tonya Wilson, and Wayne Wilson are under investigation for forcing churches in Southern California to pay up to $45,000 for computer kiosks that were presented to them as cost-free.

"These individuals sold the churches on the promise of free services and advertising revenues," Brown said. "Instead, the churches were enticed into expensive leases, which the leasing companies aggressively enforced, even after learning of the alleged scam."

The investigation is looking into whether there were scams played on churches in the cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pomona, Pasadena, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Perris, Rialto, Riverside and San Bernardino.

Brown is also investigating three national leasing companies as to what role, if any, they played in the alleged fraud. The companies are: Balboa Capital Corp., United Leasing Associates of America Ltd. and Banc of America Leasing and Capital LLC.

This scam allegedly consisted of the three individuals talking church leaders into housing the kiosks, a high tech device, which could serve as an electronic message board, print retail coupons and generate advertising revenue at no cost.

They assured churches that Urban Interfaith Network, Television Broadcasting Online or other church-friendly corporate sponsors would cover all leasing costs.

But in reality, a church would be stuck with these devices that often times did not even work. The church was held responsible for the lease, which were as high as $45,000 a year.

The leasing companies involved would aggressively pursue the terms of the lease, often filing lawsuits to collect payment including late fees and interest, the attorney general said.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox recently filed criminal charges against Morris and Perkins. The charges included racketeering, conspiracy to commit false pretenses over $20,000 and fraudulently obtaining a signature.

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