Former Celebration Church pastors sued for $716,123 in debt

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Former Celebration Church pastors owe more than $716,000, according to a lawsuit filed by First Citizens Bank.

The 71-page filing says Stovall and Kerri Weems and their companies defaulted on their payment obligations.

The filing lists the Weems, Honey Lake Farms Inc., Weems Group LLC and Northstream Management LLC as defendants.

LEGAL DOCUMENT: Read the complaint filed by First Citizens Bank

First Citizens Bank said that as of May 5, defendants owed a total of $716,123:

  • $645,281 – owed by Honey Lake Farms Inc. and guarantor Stovall Weems (loan and credit card accounts, plus interest, late fees and attorney’s fees)

  • $50,867 – owed by Weems Group LLC (Credit Card #1)

  • $984 – owed by Weems Group LLC (credit card #2)

  • $18,989 – owed by Northstream Management Group LLC (credit card)

“Defendants failed, neglected and refused to pay plaintiff,” according to the First-Citizens Bank filing.

The Weems have until June 12 to provide a written response to the court. News4JAX is contacting a spokesperson for the couple to see if they have a comment.

The Weems are currently in a legal battle with the church they founded in 1998. They have filed an injunction lawsuit against Celebration Church, alleging that a church administrator was wrongly billing the church for construction-type services at its Honey Lake Farms property in Madison County. and turned the other directors against him, resulting in the suspension of Stovall Weems. Stovall Weems was asking for his salary and arrears to be reinstated.

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Celebration Church filed a motion to dismiss and accused Stovall Weems of financial misconduct, fraud and spiritual abuse.

The church said trustees called for an investigation into the founding pastors when they discovered the Weems “engaged in a series of questionable financial dealings without the knowledge of the board or without authorization” early in the year. 2021. The motion outlines four areas of concern:

  • Several large transfers to new for-profit entities that the Weems intended to run in the future

  • Church’s purchase of a parsonage (in which Stovall and Kerri Weems were to live rent-free) for $1,286,863.30 that a company solely owned by Stovall Weems had purchased four months earlier for $855,000

  • Advancement of nine months’ salary to Kerri Weems and seven months’ salary to Stovall Weems in violation of Florida statute and the church’s own internal policies, although neither Stovall nor Kerri Weems perform the duties of the offices that would have justified these salaries

  • Improper use of more than $1,000,000 in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan proceeds to fund Weems-run Honey Lake Farms LLC and to purchase TurnCoin, an illiquid speculative digital currency

A spokesperson for the Weems told News4JAX I-TEAM that no PPP funds went to Honey Lake Farms LLC. He said Honey Lake Farms LLC is different from the nonprofit Honey Lake Farms, Inc. and has never had a bank account. The spokesperson also said that PPP funds were not used in the TurnCoin investment.

Celebration Church hired a law firm to conduct an internal investigation, and it released the findings in late April.

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“The single word used most frequently to describe Stovall Weems was ‘narcissistic’. Almost all of the witnesses we interviewed used this specific word,” the report said.

The report says one witness detailed, often through tears, instances where Stovall Weems personally belittled and humiliated them for minor mistakes or misunderstanding Stovall Weems’ “inconsistent and confusing directions.”

Another reported that Stovall Weems asked an employee to come to a liquor store late at night and deliver a bottle of bourbon to his house because he “didn’t want to be seen buying the alcohol”.

Another said an employee was instructed to buy a car for Stovall Weems and deliver it to his home. “After the employee delivered the car as requested, Stovall Weems told him to find his own transportation,” the report said.

The inquest found that many witnesses described “intense personal anguish and pain caused by working for the Weems”.

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The inquest report said there were ‘Office Hospitality’ sheets which were ‘similar to the exaggerated green room jumpers required by celebrities’ and that they ‘reflected the Weems’ immense entitlement and personal importance’ .

Stovall Weems resigned from his post in April. He said he resigned because he “cannot be legally bound to any church in which the leadership abandons clear biblical principles and spiritual qualifications for spiritual cover, spiritual authority and ecclesiastical governance and oversight. “.

Tim Timberlake has been leading Celebration Church since last year. He was installed to succeed Stovall Weems months before the legal battle was made public. Timberlake spoke at a service in March, assuring the congregation that the church was doing well.

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No criminal charges have been filed in this case. A civil court hearing in the case between the Weems and Celebration Church is scheduled for May 31.

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Jerry B. Hatch