Edgars’ finances, taxes are scrutinized

The Kansas City Star, Jan. 19, 2003
http://www.kansascity.com/
By DONNA McGUIRE, The Kansas City Star

As they built their ministry,

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Already facing murder and child-abuse charges, the Edgars now are under scrutiny of their financial life as Wyandotte County authorities investigate their finances and taxes.

Those dealings have drawn attention in Johnson County, too.

At a bond reduction hearing for the Edgars on Friday, Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison said: “We’re still trying to sort out whether the church is a complete scam or a partial scam.”

In Kansas City, Kan., the Edgars own a house and an empty lot. Their church, God’s Creation Outreach Ministry, owns a fourplex, a house, vacant lots, the sanctuary and other property in Wyandotte County, as well as a house in Jackson County.

In 1999 the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals granted tax exempt status for three properties owned by God’s Creation, including the fourplex at 1258 Central Ave., Kansas City, Kan.

In her tax board application, Christy Edgar said the four-plex would provide temporary housing for unwed mothers and drug addicts. Counseling, job-search assistance and drug rehabilitation would be offered, she said.

And, according to the application, no fees would be charged: “The total charge…is a changed life for glorifying God.”

Investigators allege, however, that was untrue.

Church members were required to turn in their paychecks, if they worked, in exchange for living in the properties, Wyandotte County District Attorney Nick Tomasic said Thursday.

Former member Felicia Perry of Wichita also contends that the church pressured her and others to give up their paychecks.

“She (Christy Edgar) got money-hungry,” Perry said in a telephone interview. “She was used to living the good life.”

If the tenants were charged, that might have violated tax-exemption rules, said Tony Folsom, executive director and general counsel for the Board of Tax Appeals. The rules allow for minimal nonexempt use, he said.

“So the board…would have to look at how much they were renting out those apartments for, and determine whether or not it (the amount) was being reimbursed for actual expenses,” Folsom said. “Just the fact they were charging (rent), that wouldn’t destroy the exemption.”

In an unrelated business arrangement, Christy Edgar also co-founded a for-profit company, F.S. & H.G., with longtime church member Marcia Bennett.

Incorporation papers say they planned to sell clothing and jewelry and rent and sell homes and apartments. They also intended to sell 100,000 shares of stock at $1 a share.

Reached at her home in Kansas City, North, Bennett said she had left God’s Creation. Though F.S. & H.G. started as a clothing store, it folded that part and then focused on housing, Bennett said.

“We didn’t go into it to make money,” said Bennett, who declined to say what the company’s initials meant. “We gave people good places to live.”

She said the corporation was not connected to the church but followed what she described as a core value of the church.

“We were trying to help people,” Bennett said. “That’s the side of the church that you don’t see, is how they helped people — helped people get off drugs, helped people get food, that sort of thing.”

As for the three nonprofits formed by the Edgars, it’s unclear what the agencies actually did. Each lost its incorporation status after the Edgars failed to file annual reports, records in Kansas and Louisiana show. It’s unclear what the church’s ties with Louisiana were.

The Star’s Richard Espinoza, Robert A. Cronkleton, Mark Wiebe and Tony Rizzo contributed to this report.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday January 20, 2003.
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