Two Pastors And A Deacon Admit That Their Church Was One Hell Of A Scam

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Some blog items never die.

Almost a year ago we wrote about the fraud charges filed against officials of the Fishers of Men Worship Center in Houston. To this day, barely a week goes by without someone throwing up another comment on the case, either defending the officials or saying they got what they deserve. Go ahead, peruse the 200-plus comments if you like. We gave up on it a long time ago.

And the winner in the great Critics vs. Defenders debate is....The Critics!!

The U.S. Attorney's office announced this morning that a trio of church officials entered guilty pleas on their fraud charges.

At the hearing this morning before United States District Judge David Hittner, Pastor Sheila Diana Washington, 49, and deacon/church treasurer Tony Overstreet, 44, pleaded guilty to bank fraud arising out of a student loan fraud scheme. They each face up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000 at their sentencing hearing scheduled for Jan. 26, 2010, at 9:15 a.m.

At the same hearing this morning, Pastor Eric Washington, 56, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States by having Fishers of Men submit grossly inflated claims for reimbursement to Harris County for a FEMA-funded program that reimbursed groups sheltering Hurricane Katrina evacuees during fall 2005.

They were fishing for something out there, but it wasn't men.

The feds say church officials convinced followers to apply for student loans and hand the money over to them, saying the $30,000 loans would be repaid within six months. Incredibly, they weren't.

Church officials eventually got up to $4 million in loan funds this way, the feds said.

As for Katrina, the church claimed to be putting up lots and lots of refugees when in fact they -- surprise!! -- weren't . More than $300,000 in FEMA money came their way.

The officials will be sentenced in a few months. Another official still faces trial on fraud charges.

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