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Michigan pastor accused of embezzling $40K from group that wanted to have black-owned store

Posted at 9:03 PM, Jan 09, 2020

A group of investors said they were inspired by a local pastor when they heard him on the radio talk about African Americans owning businesses in the city of Detroit. So, about two dozen people joined the pastor by investing anywhere from $100 to over $5,000 into an investment group he started.

The group first invested in a local market on 7 Mile Road on Detroit's west side.

The investors were not part of the pastor's congregation, but some said they trusted that a man of faith would be a wise choice to lead their investment group.

They made some money on the first store, which had an owner as their partner, but they wanted to invest in actually purchasing a different store that the group would own.

However, then things began to change, according to Willie Taylor who ended up being the treasurer of the group. Taylor said while he was the treasurer, he did not have access to the monies in the account. Only the pastor's name was tied to the account, he said.

Taylor and other members of the investment group would eventually go to Highland Park police and accuse the pastor of embezzling the thousands of dollars they gave him to invest in a store they wanted to own.

Taylor estimates $40,000 has gone missing from the group and he said they began to suspect trouble when the pastor stopped attending their meetings.

We are not naming the pastor because he has not been charged with any crime. He did talk to us and he claims he stopped attending meetings because he felt threatened and stalked.

The pastor said he filed a lawsuit against the owner of the store they originally invested in because he was not returning their money on schedule. That case is pending in Wayne County Third Circuit Court.

Taylor said the money that's in dispute is separate from the lawsuit and deals only with those who invested in the second store - one they had hoped would be owned by the group.

And when they didn't get answers from the pastor about the missing money, several members of the group went to the pastor's church, sat in the pews during service and then protested outside while holding a large sign that read "Where is the 2nd store $."

"He's dodging us, you know," said Walter Crawford who told us he's out $5,000. "That's the behavior, to me, of a thief and a crook."

Highland Park police would not comment on the investigation.

The pastor said that Taylor and the man who owns the first store they invested in must have the missing money because he said he doesn't have it.

The pastor also accused Taylor of forging his name on two checks.

Taylor denies any wrongdoing and points out he's the one who went to police.

Taylor said the pastor is the only signer on the account and he directed him to sign his name when he was out of town or otherwise not available to write a couple checks to investors.

Highland Park police would not comment on the investigation.

"I think he spent the money like it was his own," Taylor said.

This article was written by Kimberly Craig for WXYZ .