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Scam uses church to lure victims

To have your church's name and reputation disparaged for the purpose of scamming citizens out of money is upsetting to those at Sunnyside's Neighborhood Church Assembly of God.

Senior Pastor Bob North found out this was the case when a potential target phoned him recently.

He said he has received two other reports of a scheme being committed by individuals looking to bilk senior citizens and terminally ill individuals out of their savings.

This group of individuals reportedly visits potential victims' homes.

"They start by quoting scripture," North said, adding the individuals identify themselves as prominent leaders at Neighborhood Church Assembly of God.

The suspects also allegedly tell the individuals targeted the church is working with the Sunnyside Police Department.

"They tell the individual the police department has provided the church with money seized in criminal cases," North explained, stating the funds are supposedly provided to the church for the purpose of redistribution to people in need.

As supposed church leaders, the suspects then solicit a $2,000 check with the promise of $20,000 being returned to the victim at a later time.

Because his church is not in any way associated with the suspects and doesn't have such a partnership with the police, North is concerned more individuals may have become victims of the scam.

"I wish we had that kind of money to help the community," he said.

If it hadn't been for the initial individual who was wise enough to call the church and ask about the "program," North said he isn't sure how long it would have been before he and the church board were made aware of the scam.

"It was the first I had heard of it," he stated, adding he is not certain as to whether or not the suspects are using other churches in the area are also being named in the scam.

"I don't even know how these people are getting the names of community members who are elderly or terminally ill," North solemnly stated.

Because of the nature of the scam and the reputation of Sunnyside's churches, he felt it is important to alert the community.

North has contacted the Sunnyside Police Department and urges anyone who has either been targeted or fallen prey to the scam to do so also.

"I believe there are more than the three (victims) I have been made aware of," he said.

Anyone believing they have been approached by or fallen victim to the scam can call the police department at 836-6200.

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