News Channel 9, Jan. 29, 2003
Story by Erica Donerson
A well-known Dade County, Georgia evangelist is accused of swindling churches out of their money.
FBI agents roamed the property owned by well-known North Georgia evangelist Abraham Kennard. His property in Wildwood is where they say he operates a multi-million-dollar scam.
FBI Agent James McJunkin explains, “What we’re investigating are allegations that he has defrauded churches, small churches, across the United States out of increments of $3,000, $6,000, up to $15,000 each over the last several years.”
Kennard allegedly collects the money, promising to invest it, and promising a return of $500,000 for the churches’ building funds. About 1,000 churches from Arkansas to Michigan to Maryland have all been hit by Kennard.
“What the scam is, is he accepted the fees from these people, but never provided any of the money back as he had promised them,” says Agent McJunkin.
Kennard’s targets were predominantly African-American churches. Dade County Sheriff Phil Street warns that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
“Just because they say they’re with a Christian organization, or affiliated with a religious group, don’t give money. Check it out,” he urges.
Sheriff Street thinks the money went straight into Kennard’s pockets.
“These people are out here driving Escalade vehicles, Mercedes Benz, living in nice, fine homes,” says Street.
Kennard’s fine home was raided Wednesday by the FBI in the search for concrete evidence connecting him to his alleged fraudulent business, “Network International Investment Corporation.” Dade County jail inmates helped federal marshals load computers, high-tech electronic equipment, and expensive cars onto trucks to be carted away. Kennard’s bank accounts were also seized.
Agent McJunkin says, “There’s a significant number of charges including money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud, those type of federal charges involved with a scheme like this.”
Kennard is not behind bars at this time. Whether the evangelist is charged depends upon the outcome of the raid and the investigation. However, Agent McJunkin says from what he’s seen so far, it’s not a question of if, but when.
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Kennard began his scam in January 2001.
The IRS, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Dade County Sheriff’s Department are just some of the agencies assisting the FBI in this ongoing investigation.