Local Pastor Charged for Embezzling More Than $900,000 from Community Center
TULSA, OK—Willard Lenord Jones, 63, of Tulsa, Church pastor and former Executive Director of the Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project, was charged today with three counts of wire fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return by criminal information.
Danny C. Williams Sr., the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma; James E. Finch, the Special Agent in Charge of the Oklahoma City Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and R. Damon Rowe, the Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Office of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation made the announcement.
According to the Information, from September 2007 to June 2013, Jones defrauded approximately $933,000 from the Church and the Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project. The Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project is a non-profit organization formed to raise money for the building and operation of a community center in South Haven, a neighborhood in West Tulsa.
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.
In addition, Jones was charged with one count of subscribing to a false 2011 Form 1040 U.S. Individual Income Tax because he didn’t report approximately $390,061 of income on that return.
If convicted, the maximum penalty would be 20 years’ imprisonment for each count of wire fraud and three years for subscribing to a false tax return. Jones would also forfeit his residence and luxury items; and face entry of approximately one million dollars in criminal forfeiture money judgment.
The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph F. Wilson, Kevin C. Leitch, and Catherine Depew on behalf of the United States.
The charges contained in the Information are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.