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Tax fraud scam leads to federal conviction

Friday, July 26, 2013 4:48 PM
Last updated Saturday, July 27, 2013 6:34 AM
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A former local minister was convicted Friday of 22 federal crimes of conspiracy, theft of public money, and aggravated identity theft involving fraudulent tax returns.

The jury deliberated several hours in U.S. District Court in Augusta before finding Jesse J. Flournoy III, 36, of Riverdale, Ga., guilty of all counts.

According to the indictment, Flournoy was responsible for the theft and fraud of nearly $123,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Clark asked that Flournoy, who had been free on bond, be remanded into custody pending his sentencing. He said that because of the aggravated identity theft convictions – punishable by a minimum two-year consecutive prison term – Flournoy faces a sentence of 18 to 20 years.

Defense attorney John Taylor countered that Flournoy met all of his pre-trial bond conditions, that he was working, married and the father of eight children ages 1 month to 14 years.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall, however, ordered Flournoy be taken into custody, pointing out his history of failing to appear for court proceedings on two occasions, and a probation violation.

Flournoy, who was pastor of a former church on Wylds Road, participated in a conspiracy from September 2011 through January 2012. Shonta Merriweather, 40, of Augusta, who was indicted along with Flournoy, testified this week that Flournoy was the ringleader.

In exchange for a percentage of the take, Flournoy had Merriweather take IRS tax return checks and power-of-attorney forms to a Columbia County check-cashing business, she testified. The checks were made out to other people, but the power-of-attorney forms gave the impression she had permission to cash the checks.

“He wasn’t the middleman, he was head man,” Merriweather testified. Flournoy used her as a front so he wouldn’t be seen, she said.

Merriweather is in custody awaiting sentencing. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy June 18.

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seenitB4 07/27/13 - 06:57 am

Be very careful of trusting anyone...even a man of the cloth.

corgimom 07/27/13 - 08:10 am
He isn't a minister anymore

He isn't a minister anymore than a goldfish is a minister, he is a flat-out criminal and con artist.

And Shonta Merriweather isn't any better.

I feel sorry for his children, they deserve so much better than this sorry thing for a father.

rmwhitley 07/27/13 - 09:35 am
It is my understanding,

that in certain communities, a person need not be strapped with having to go to Divinity school to portray themselves as a Reverend. You can even begin your training for the "ministry" behind bars. Hmmmmmm. I wonder what else is taught behind prison bars?

JRC2024 07/27/13 - 11:30 am
i wonder why you got the

i wonder why you got the thumbs down corgi..The truth hurts some.

validPoint 07/27/13 - 12:14 pm
Let The Church Be The Church.

It is a spiritually dangerous thing when street practices move into the church. Perhaps, that is one reason the scriptures admonishes believers to "watch and pray" that you enter not into temptation.

All thats in the world is the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. (1John2:16) The Apostle Paul spoke to the church at Rome that the laws of the land are to be obeyed as long as they do not conflict with the laws of God. Evidently, these people either never knew, ignored, or forgot.

Truth will always be truth, even when it hurts.

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