Snake-Oil Charmers 2

Who better to advise the flock on investment opportunities than the same church-authorities-cum-businessmen who say you won’t go to heaven if you disobey them?

Two leaders of a Bay Area church with a controversial past are under investigation for an alleged real estate scheme, KPIX 5 has learned. Some members of the General Assembly Church, with congregations in Vallejo, Union City, Moreno Valley in Southern California and two other states said the promise of eternal life cost them dearly. “It was a nightmare,” said Horace Gill. He was the pastor of a former branch of the church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Gill said in 2002, pastor Lacy Hawkins started preaching about a real-estate investment opportunity.

Members of the congregation, prodded by their then-pastor, put a fortune into real-estate deals run by Hawkins’ second-in-command under the business name ‘Daystar.’ Questions were not allowed. Recalls former church member Julio Ramirez,

“Anytime we used to ask questions we were told that you are in a bad spirit, what is wrong with you?”

God did, however, quietly perform a miracle, and made all the Daystar investors multi-millionaires.

Nah, just kidding.

Daystar suddenly closed its doors in 2006. Stunned church members asked for their money back, only to find out it was gone.

But that’s nothing compared to what a business-minded leader of a church with one million gospel lovers can do. Just think of the riches that so many faithful people can produce! David Yonggi-Cho sure did.


The founding pastor of the world’s largest Pentecostal congregation is being indicted on charges of breach of trust for costing the church more than $9 million in a stock scheme gone awry. South Korean news sources report that prosecutors have indicted David Yonggi Cho, founder of Yoido Full Gospel Church which has more than 1 million congregants, for a stock scheme in which he arranged for the church to buy his son Cho Hee-jun’s stock “at a rate three to four times [the] market value.”

Other church leaders, too, are having a spot of trouble with that whole Biblical values thing.


A former West Michigan church deacon accused of taking cash from the weekly offertory basket has pleaded guilty to larceny. Joseph Finnigan made the plea Friday in Ottawa County Circuit Court. The 73-year-old pleaded to two counts of larceny over $20,000.

Our favorite story in this roundup happened just yesterday, when

A meeting of church members at the New Covenant Baptist Church on East Beard Avenue on Syracuse’s South Side ended with police swarming the sanctuary. Church-goers on the street told CNY Central’s Ken Chapman that they were there to vote on whether or not to oust Pastor Colette Matthews, saying she has been having an affair with a married member of the church. …

Syracuse Police say things got out of hand when some members tried to stop others from entering the church. Officials say police responded to the church three times on Sunday. Two calls were for yelling and shouting. A third call was for a man with a gun, which was an unfounded claim. Eventually, Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler came to the church and ordered the assembly to clear out.

[David Yonggi-Cho photo via; Joseph Finnigan photo via WGVU]

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