Local Pastor Sentenced For Embezzling Over $900,000 From Community Center
TULSA, Okla.—Willard Lenord Jones, 63, of Tulsa, church pastor and former Executive Director of the Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project, was sentenced today by United States District Judge John E. Dowdell to a total of 37 months in prison for having committed three counts of wire fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return.
United States Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr., for the Northern District of Oklahoma, FBI Special Agent in Charge James E. Finch, for the Oklahoma City Division, and IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS CI) Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe, for the Dallas Office made the announcement.
“Willard Jones has now been confronted with the magnitude of his crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Williams, “and he will have a long time to think about his crimes and the impact of his conduct on the South Haven community. I commend the coordinated efforts by the FBI and IRS CI and their commitment to aggressively investigate financial fraud crimes and to ensure justice is served for the community.”
"Crimes like those committed by Willard Jones violate the public trust and harm the efforts of legitimate individuals and organizations involved in improving their communities,” said FBI SAC Finch. "The FBI believes the sentence received by Mr. Jones sends a strong message throughout our community."
“Willard Jones lavished himself with hotel stays, restaurants, casinos, liquor, automobiles, a Rolex watch and a mink coat with funds he stole from the Church and the Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project and he destroyed the trust those organizations and the citizens of South Haven in West Tulsa had placed in him. In doing so, he also cheated all American taxpayers," said IRS CI SAC Rowe. “IRS CI was there to investigate, along with our other law enforcement partners, and we will continue to devote our resources to investigate fraud and seek justice for all American taxpayers.”
At a change of plea hearing on October 9, 2014, Jones admitted that, from September 2007 to June 2013, he misappropriated approximately $933,000 from the Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project, a non-profit organization formed to raise money for the building and operation of a community center in South Haven, a neighborhood in West Tulsa. He also admitted that he failed to report $390,061 of income in 2011 on his federal tax return for 2011.
As the Executive Director of the community center, Jones solicited monetary contributions from donors, including foundations, corporations, churches and individuals, to fund the development project. As part of the scheme, Jones fraudulently transferred funds from community center bank accounts to church bank accounts and then transferred those funds into personal bank accounts. Jones admitted using the money on personal expenses and luxury items, including hotels, gambling, liquor, automobiles, and jewelry.
An order has been entered forfeiting his residence, a Rolex watch and fur coat. A criminal forfeiture money judgment has also been entered against him in the amount of $933,507.80. United States Attorney Williams said, “One of the main purposes of the federal forfeiture laws is to deprive criminals of property acquired through their illegal activities. It is particularly rewarding that the United States will return forfeited proceeds to the victims in this case.”
In addition to receiving a sentence of incarceration of 37 months on the wire fraud counts and 36 months on the tax fraud count, all to run concurrently, the court imposed a period of supervised release of three years on the wire fraud counts and one year on the tax fraud count, all to run concurrently, and ordered Jones to pay restitution in the amount of $933,507.80 to the community center and $155,112 to the Internal Revenue Service. Restitution payments are first applied to the amount owed to the community center, and only after it is fully repaid will any additional payments be applied to the IRS restitution.
The case was investigated by the FBI and IRS CI. United States Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr., and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph F. Wilson, Kevin C. Leitch, and Catherine Depew prosecuted on behalf of the United States.