Congregation scammed out of their church - CBS46 News

Congregation scammed out of their church

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"It was the end of the world, it was unbelievable. I had been violated. Not just violated financially, I was violated emotionally," said Rev. Royce Cornelius.

It all started when he decided to buy a new church to accommodate his growing congregation.

"We were trying to borrow that money and we couldn't find it," Cornelius said.

"The housing market collapsed. It became almost impossible for churches to get loans. One broker that we interviewed actually said no one was giving churches the money because no one wants to foreclose on God," said US Postal Inspector Samuel Abraham Freedman.

Then Rev. Cornelius met Jamal Lawson.

"I think of Jamal Lawson as a charming devil, with a silver tongue and a golden keyboard," he said.

Lawson promised Cornelius money for a new church but needed a bit of cash up front - only $4,000. The reverend gave him the money. Progress toward the new facility was going so well, the congregation sold their church.

"We were celebrating the new building we were getting, we were emailing, we were posting pictures and tentative dates of moving and all of a sudden they sold our building, the deal was closed," Cornelius said. "We were homeless. We had nowhere to go."

Lawson scammed 25 churches out of more than $100,000.

"Forgiving is easy. Forgetting isn't… so I have to work hard to keep forgiving," Cornelius said.

Postal inspectors say it's so important to do extensive research and contact references before entering financial transactions.

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