DeKalb County Church Files Lawsuit After Financial Plan Cost Church Millions – WSB-TV Channel 2

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. – A local mega-church speaks out Channel 2 Action News on a financial plan targeting black congregations across the country.

House of Hope Atlanta filed the lawsuit on Tuesday due to what they call a nationwide conspiracy that cost them millions of dollars.

Mark Winne, Channel 2 investigative journalist spoke with the pastor of the church.

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Pastor E. Dewey Smith said before speaking at the sanctuary of Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church, one of Georgia’s largest houses of worship with more than 10,000 members, that he looks to God for guidance.

But before speaking on a recent Sunday, he also turned to church advocates, and where he is delivering good news, he is delivering bad news to his congregation.

“Recently, we uncovered some incredibly disturbing information,” Smith told his congregation on Sunday.

According to Smith, when Greater Travelers Rest purchased his current home, he fell victim to a complicated financial scheme.

Now the church has filed a lawsuit saying it was the target of a nationwide conspiracy to defraud churches, including black churches.


The lawsuit alleges fraud, theft by deception, racketeering, and more against a long list of defendants.

The suit mentions the founding of the church in 1876, listing Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. among its former pastors.

But Smith says in 2009 he needed a lot more space.

“In four years, we’ve grown from 400 members to over 4,000,” Smith said.

When the sprawling campus of Chapel Hill Harvester Church was put up for sale after scandal engulfed its founder, the late Bishop Earl Paulk Jr., that seemed to be the answer.

Church attorney Quinton Washington said Channel 2 Action News that in order to buy the property, Greater Travelers Rest was tricked into thinking it had to take over a financing agreement Chapel Hill Harvester had with the main defendants in the lawsuit – Herring National Bank of Texas and American Investors Group led by Philip Myers (we found this photo on Facebook). It was an arrangement so complex it took years to uncover, where bonds were supposed to be sold to investors on behalf of the church to raise funds.

“You have to register the bonds with the appropriate financial institutions, then you go to the open market and sell them. Did it happen here? No,” Washington said Channel 2.

Smith says the issues came to light after the church learned that former Herring National Bank vice president Catana Gray, who played a key role in the supposed bonds, had been terminated and banned by Texas Banking Commission after allegedly accepting a bond worth $100,000 as a gift from Myers of American Investors Group.

“Can this church survive? Absolutely. We’ve been around for about 146 years,” Smith said.

The lawsuit alleges that some of the defendants failed to credit the church with millions of dollars in payments.

Smith believes God allowed all of this to happen so the pastor could help other churches in similar situations.

Channel 2 Action News made extensive efforts by phone or email to get answers from Myers, Gray, Herring National Bank and American Investors Group.

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Jerry B. Hatch