Federal Jury Convicts Woman of Coercing Members of Church Ministry into Forced Labor
CHICAGO — A federal jury in Chicago has convicted the self-appointed bishop of a Pennsylvania ministry of forcing church members to work certain jobs, pocketing their earnings, and directing them to defraud various hotels.
TRACIE DICKEY, also known as “Tracie Williams,” 55, of Pittsburgh, Pa., was found guilty Friday on one count of wire fraud and one count of labor trafficking. Each count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Sara L. Ellis set sentencing for Aug. 7, 2019, in federal court in Chicago.
The conviction was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Valuable assistance was provided by U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Northern District of Texas and Middle District of Florida, and the FBI’s Pittsburgh, Pa., field office. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maureen E. Merin and Eric S. Pruitt.
Dickey was a self-appointed bishop of Deliverance Tabernacle Ministries, an organization she founded that proclaimed to offer faith-based services in locations such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. She also purported to operate a travel agency known as World Ambassador Travel.
Evidence at trial revealed that Dickey recruited young women to become members of the ministry, and directed them to work multiple jobs, including as desk clerks at hotels. She instructed the members on how to have the hotels pay reservation-commission fees to Dickey’s travel agency, via a bank account controlled by Dickey. In reality, the travel agency never actually booked hotel reservations on behalf of guests.
From 2005 to 2013, the hotels paid approximately $86,000 in commissions to Dickey. Dickey also collected approximately $333,000 in wages earned by members of her ministry. Dickey emotionally and physically abused the members, and coerced them into following her rules and remitting their earnings to Dickey or her church. Dickey’s tactics included starving and humiliating church members, forcing some of them into homelessness, and threatening that God would harm their families if they did not comply with Dickey’s rules. Several of Dickey’s victims testified at trial about their ordeals.