Former Augusta minister gets prison time for role in tax scheme

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A former Augusta minister was sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison Thursday for his role in a scheme that cashed almost a half-million dollars in stolen tax return checks.

Judge J. Randal Hall said Jesse J. Flournoy III played a leading role in the fraud by receiving stolen checks from a source in Atlanta, forging the signatures, obtain­ing false power of attorney forms and ordering a co-defendant to cash the checks at a Columbia County business.

His co-defendant, Shonta Merriweather, was sentenced in February to 54 months in prison for her part in the scheme after pleading guilty to the charges.

Flournoy, who was a preacher at a Wylds Road church in Augusta, maintained his innocence even after a jury found him guilty in October on 22 charges, and he did not admit his participation until recently.

“I am deeply sorry for putting a burden on the government by going to trial,” Flournoy said tearfully before receiving 148 months in prison and being ordered to pay $450,000 in restitution, to be shared with Merriweather.

Apologizing to the Intern­al Revenue Service, his victims, family and friends, and asking for mercy from the judge, Flournoy, a father of eight, said he planned “to be a positive role model to my children and others in the community.”

Defense attorney John Taylor said Flournoy acted blindly throughout the scheme – which ran from September 2011 through January 2012 – and thought of it as a way to earn easy money without realizing the human impact.

“He didn’t realize stealing from the IRS is stealing from people,” Taylor said. “The idea was steal from a faceless entity that nobody seemed to like.”

The scheme helped the players collect more than $450,000 in treasury checks, although the U.S. district attorney’s office was only able to show evidence that $94,000 was in fact stolen.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy Clark argued not all the individuals whose identities were stolen were able to be located and that “we can not assume simply because a check does not come back that it is good.”

Hall agreed.

It is still not clear how much of a cut Flournoy received in the scheme, but Clark said he was a leader by knowingly recruiting others to participate, forging signatures on the checks and creating fraudulent tax returns. Charges have not yet been filed against Flournoy’s connections in Atlanta or any individuals besides Merriweather who may have facilitated the fraud locally.

Among about 15 friends and family present, the Rev. A.L. Cutler testified that Flournoy is a good man who got off course.

“Good people sometimes do bad things,” Cutler said. “I’m a good man, but sometimes I stub my toe.”

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corgimom
32270
Points
corgimom 06/12/14 - 11:25 pm
7
1
He's not sorry he did it-

He's not sorry he did it- he's sorry he got caught.

Where is Rev. A. L. Cutler's compassion for people that were depending on that money, who desperately needed it, and had it stolen by this worthless scum?

corgimom
32270
Points
corgimom 06/12/14 - 11:37 pm
7
0
Good men don't steal from

Good men don't steal from people.

And a good parent lives a clean, honest life, so as to set a good example for their children, who are watching them every minute of the day.

gargoyle
16974
Points
gargoyle 06/12/14 - 11:55 pm
4
0
It may be time to tweak the

It may be time to tweak the law to include multiple identity theft for profit a RICO chargeable offence. A extra 30 or 40 years to make sure they have nowhere to spend the money that they didn't get caught stealing. These scammers have become a plague on society.

habersham100
177
Points
habersham100 06/13/14 - 03:41 am
7
0
Two questions:

1) When is it ever "all right" to steal - anything? 2) Where does this guy think the IRS (or the government in general) gets their money to begin with?

I guess they don't teach things like that in school anymore, eh?

curly123053
4669
Points
curly123053 06/13/14 - 07:48 am
5
1
FairTax !

These type of crimes become a thing of the past when the FairTax Amendment is put into law.

AFjoe
2945
Points
AFjoe 06/13/14 - 08:41 am
2
1
10%

Did he give his church 10%. If the DA's office could only show $94,000 was stolen, where is the paper trail for the difference. Word on the street is his bookkeeper was Kay Allen.

prov227
3157
Points
prov227 06/13/14 - 09:23 am
2
0
Minister is an honorable title ...

Flournoy has besmirched his church and profession. Wonder if he was thinking about that. One thing to accept Christ; quite another to lead a godly life. One thing to call yourself a preacher and ... steal.

jimmymac
39556
Points
jimmymac 06/13/14 - 12:58 pm
1
0
PREACHER
Unpublished

Another faux preacher who's a wolf hiding as a minister. I wonder how many are doing the same thing and would steal the fillings out of your teeth if given half a chance. It's sad that organized religion has been co-opted by criminals far too often.

just man
46
Points
just man 06/13/14 - 06:16 pm
0
0
Don't aspire to be more than

Don't aspire to be more than God created you to be.

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 06/14/14 - 08:08 am
0
0
Now we need to investigate
Unpublished

Now we need to investigate more churches for tax evasion.

my.voice
4816
Points
my.voice 06/14/14 - 11:04 am
1
0
“He didn’t realize stealing

“He didn’t realize stealing from the IRS is stealing from people,” Taylor said. “The idea was steal from a faceless entity that nobody seemed to like.”

Did Taylor say this with a straight face? His client should get another five years for hiring a dumb attorney.

Apologizing to the Intern­al Revenue Service, his victims, family and friends, and asking for mercy from the judge, Flournoy, a father of eight, said he planned “to be a positive role model to my children and others in the community.”

Well, you've been a role model, so you accomplished half your goal. Now go sit in prison and be a role model to another set of "others"

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 06/14/14 - 11:29 am
0
0
I'm convinced!
Unpublished

He's want's to be a good role model to his flock (of thieves), his children and his community. They (white men) are just trying to put a "good" black man down when he was doing so well. Set the "man" free! And, by the way, don't worry none 'bout them court costs ( paid for by hard working people who in many cases struggle to make ends meet). Let the boy go. Send him to my house. One hour with me and he'll find $450,000.00!

kiwiinamerica
942
Points
kiwiinamerica 06/14/14 - 10:39 pm
0
0
God helps those who help themselves
Unpublished

Do I hear an "AMEN", brothers and sisters.......??

Yesiree!!

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