In 2009, when pastor Guadalupe “Lupe” Davila first ascended the pulpit of the Primera Iglesia Bautista Camino al Cielo, in El Mirage, Ariz., money and valuables started disappearing with vexing regularity.
The Phoenix New Times explains:
Tens of thousands of dollars in cash, building materials, and new appliances for the church’s kitchen were donated. Even though he was asked repeatedly, Davila refused to provide records about how the money was spent.
A group of concerned church members finally did a little investigating the other day, rifling through Davila’s church office and packing up his belongings. They wanted him out.
A DVD showing a topless woman pressing her forearm and hand against her breasts fell out of a tome interpreting the Bible’s book of Revelations.
Revelations — geddit? Nice touch, pastor!
“Filthy Porn Stars,” read church member Donna Hennig, quoting the DVD’s title. “Eight hours [long]! Oh, my . . . Can you believe this? Well, we shouldn’t be surprised.”
But that’s the least of it.
Church members and volunteers learned that Davila emptied nearly $3,000 in donations from a bank account established to improve the learning center for neighborhood children. They also learned that he used an invalid tax-exempt identification number to collect free food and other donations from local retailers, including Costco.
They discovered that Davila, a former Goodyear police officer, spent about five months in a federal prison for stealing about $6,000 from an undercover operation targeting drug dealers and gang members.
Could a crooked cop also be a crooked pastor? But, but — Davila is ordained! A man of the cloth! A follower of Christ! He would never violate his promises to the Lord!
Davila … carried on sexual relationships with at least two church members. One of the young women was his secret lover for about two years, but she ended the relationship after realizing he had other mistresses at the same time. When she broke things off and stopped attending church, Davila barraged her with calls, text messages, and e-mails.
Even after she obtained an order of protection against him, he sent her more than a hundred erratic texts — one minute telling her he missed her and that God loves her and the next calling her a “fucking bitch” and a “fucking liar.” In some, he wrote that he was “unsettled with remorse” and that he’d pray for her.
His congregation has now changed the locks as well as the name of the church; and Davila, with any luck, is going to spend some more time in prison to contemplate the similarities between being a peddler of religion and being a con man.