Recipient skeptical of Jesus letter

FLUSHING – Jesus has been making the rounds in Flushing, and at least one local resident is worried.

Mary Damico, 77, opened her mail last week to find the face of Jesus on the promise of God’s blessing if she sent the letter to someone else – along with a monetary gift to a post office box in Tulsa, Okla.

“This is a scam,” Damico said. “They ought to go to that postal box and see who’s picking up that mail.”

The money actually goes to a St. Matthew’s Church, a Los Angeles-based organization that has been accused of swindling donors.

RipOffReport.com, a consumer Web site that claims to help news media investigate scams, has received several claims from people who allege they were scammed by the group.

One California woman told the Web site she sent money hoping for a miracle, but just got letters asking for more money.

The church has collected $100 million since 1993, according to tax records reported in a 2003 article in the Tulsa World, a publication of the Trinity Foundation, a nonprofit watchdog group.

Damico said one of her neighbors sent the group $10 after receiving a letter.

The letters include a folded piece of paper with a picture of Jesus with his eyes closed – stare hard enough and the eyes open because “Jesus sees your needs,” the group promises.

St. Matthew’s Church literature also claims that God bought a Maryland family a car, gave a Texas family a six-room house and blessed someone in Pennsylvania with more than $5,000.

A Flint Journal call to the church’s Tulsa-based attorney was not returned.

The Journal also called the church’s direct line but got a recorded message that says the church does not sell anything but does offer prayer and worship.

Damico, however, isn’t buying it.

“I can’t believe this. They want me to send my money to a P.O. box?”

Genesee County Sheriff Robert J. Pickell said his consumer fraud unit received a complaint about the Jesus solicitation.

“We’ll be on the lookout for it,” he said.

State police at the Flint Township post hadn’t heard about the solicitation.

“This is the first one of I’ve heard of this nature,” Detective Sgt. Brian Sipes said. “There’s an awful lot of them out there.

“I just can’t believe people would actually fall for this.”

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