Controversial Agape Ministries Church sells $1.6m home

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The empire of controversial Agape Ministries Church spans two states, eight properties and a fleet of 13 vehicles, and its funds are held in 10 separate accounts, it has been revealed.

Court documents obtained by The Advertiser show for the first time the scope of church leader Pastor Rocco Leo’s fortune obtained, his detractors claim, through fraud.

The documents have been filed as part of a successful District Court action in May to freeze the assets of Leo, right, and two senior Agape members – Joe and Mari Antoinette Veneziano.

Yesterday, however, The Advertiser learnt that one of the Victorian properties at the centre of the dispute was sold last month for around $1.6 million.

Law firm Armour and Allen, which was successful in freezing the Venezianos’ assets, said it had been told by the Victorian land titles office there was an order over all assets in that state.

Also yesterday, police said they were no closer to finding Leo or one of his closest confidants, John Mouhalos three months after they found batons, fuses, detonators, detonator cords and about 20,000 rounds of high-powered ammunition allegedly connected to the cult. The court documents show:

Leo owns three South Australian properties, including the church’s Oakden headquarters, and Butterflies Cafe on Pirie St, Adelaide.

Five properties in the Victorian suburbs of Sunshine and Clayton are owned by either Leo, the Venezianos or companies in which they hold an interest.

The church runs a fleet of 13 vehicles including a luxury Mercedes sedan, a silver Mercedes coupe and a dual-cab tip-truck.

Funds connected to the church are held in one Westpac and nine Commonwealth Bank accounts.

Leo and the Venezianos are being sued by Silvia Melchiorre and Martin Penney, who claim they were duped into handing over $1.2 million and $420,000 respectively.
[…]

Though no warrant has been issued for Leo’s arrest, police are investigating allegations he assaulted the estranged husband of a parishioner at Adelaide Airport in April.
[…more…]

– Source / Full Story: Controversial Agape Ministries Church sells $1.6m home , Sean Fewster, The Advertiser, Aug. 15, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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This post was last updated: Aug. 15, 2010