Local Pastor Pleads Guilty to 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, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge John E. Dowdell to three counts of wire fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return, announced U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr., for the Northern District of Oklahoma. Jones was charged by information on August 13, 2014, and sentencing is scheduled for January 12, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.
At the change of plea hearing, Jones admitted that, from September 2007 to June 2013, he misappropriated approximately $933,000 from the Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project, 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 solicited monetary contributions from donors, including foundations, corporations, churches and individuals, to fund the development project. As part of the scheme, Jones fraudulently transferred funds from community center bank accounts to church bank accounts and then transferred those funds into personal bank accounts. Jones admitted using the money on personal expenses and luxury items, including, hotels, gambling, liquor, automobiles, and jewelry. Pursuant to his plea agreement, Jones will forfeit his residence, a Rolex watch and fur coat. A criminal forfeiture money judgment will also be entered against him in the amount of $933,507.80.
At the time of sentencing, Jones faces the statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison 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 a criminal forfeiture money judgment.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations. United States Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr., and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph F. Wilson, Kevin C. Leitch, and Catherine Depew are prosecuting on behalf of the United States.