Former AME Zion Church leaders charged with $14 million fraud

A former bishop and lay leader of a historically African-American church has been accused of defrauding California congregations by mortgaging their properties to obtain $14 million in loans

OAKLAND, Calif. — A former bishop and lay leader of a historically African-American church has been accused of defrauding California congregations by mortgaging their properties to obtain $14 million in loans they used for their expenses. personal, authorities said on Tuesday.

An unsealed federal indictment on Tuesday charges Staccato Powell, 62, of Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Sheila Quintana, 67, of Vallejo, Calif., with conspiracy and wire fraud, with Powell also being charged with mail fraud , the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the North said the District of California in a statement.

Both men were arrested on Tuesday and appeared in courts in North Carolina and Sacramento, Calif., prosecutors said. It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys to speak on their behalf.

Powell was elected bishop in 2016 of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Zion, whose history dates back to 1796 and has about 1.4 million members, authorities said. He led congregations in the western United States but was stripped in a church trial last year after officials concluded he had mishandled funds.

The indictment says Powell and Quintana created Western Episcopal District, Inc. and used the entity to illegally obtain grant deeds for properties owned by congregations in Oakland, San Jose, Palo Alto and Los Angeles. .

The congregations had little to no mortgage debt until the couple, without permission, used their real estate as collateral to secure more than $14 million in high-interest loans, prosecutors said .

Some congregations that had paid off mortgages years earlier found themselves in debt, prosecutors said.

Powell and Quintana then embezzled money for personal gain, including canceling a mortgage on Powell’s home in North Carolina, buying real estate there and making cash payments to Quintana’s spouse, said the prosecutors.

Western Episcopal District, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020 and listed 11 churches in California, Arizona and Colorado among its assets, authorities said.

Jerry B. Hatch