In his role as president and CEO of Addicts Rehabilitation Centre Fund and the Addicts Rehabilitation Centre Foundation, Rev. Reginald Williams of the Charity Baptist Church of Christ in the Bronx, USA, bilked money meant to help HIV-positive drug addicts and used it to jet off to the Caribbean and lavish himself with gifts, prosecutors said last Wednesday.
The State said that the sexagenarian pastor scammed the nonprofits out of more than $631,000, but his legal defence team claims he was “entitled to” the money.
Rev Williams and two others, Bennie Hadnott and Naomi Barrera, were arraigned on grand larceny charges in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday. Barrera was also charged with filing false paperwork with the New York City Human Resources Administration.
The cleric gave Hadnott and his Tondah Consulting Group a $40,000 contract for financial services and got $54,000 in kickbacks in return between May 2010 and January 2015, prosecutors said.
Williams allegedly used the money to pay off his American Express bill and write cashier’s checks to himself and his wife.
Prosecutors said he plundered the two taxpayer-funded nonprofits with the help of Barrera, who allegedly played a shell game with proceeds from an affordable housing real estate sale.
The ARC Foundation and the ARC Fund are taxpayer-funded not-for-profit entities that contract with City and State agencies to provide housing and social services to New Yorkers with substance and alcohol use disorders, HIV/AIDS, and others.
According to court papers, Rev. Williams raked in $135,000 and Barrera, 42, pocketed $30,000 through those deals.
Rev Williams, the court heard, also had a lucrative expense reimbursement hustle. The prosecutor said he expensed $100,000 spent on trips to the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic and treated himself to $170,000 worth of dinners and bar tabs. He allegedly double-dipped his reimbursements by submitting the same receipts to both ARC affiliates.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said the trio,
“shamelessly stole from publicly funded organisations dedicated to helping vulnerable New Yorkers. Even while their organisations struggled financially – failing to meet contractual obligations and even furloughing employees without pay – these defendants continued to drain the coffers for their personal gain.”
The trio pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court to grand larceny and other charges.
Rev Williams’ attorney Paul Martin said his client personally raised over $14 million for the foundation and “every dime received (from the nonprofits) he was entitled to.”
“The board made the decision to pay my client, to pay him for the years in which he got no salary,” said the lawyer.
Barrera had “little if any authority” in ARC finances, her attorney Robert Walters said.
Hadnott’s lawyer, Sanford Talkin, pointed out that his client has had, “a distinguished career as an accountant” and wants to make sure “this isn’t a blemish on his record.”
The three were released without bail.
A jury will soon decide whether those descriptions are accurate.
The indictment was the product of a joint investigation by the Manhattan DA, the city’s Department of Investigation and New York’s Inspector General.
Rev Williams has been the leader of Charity Baptist Church of Christ for 26 years and is known for his “spirit of generosity,” according to the church’s website.
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