April 8, 2005
By Marta Aldrich*
Ga. (UMNS)—A phone scam by someone posing as a United Methodist bishop
has robbed three African-American United Methodist congregations in
Florida, Georgia and Maryland of about $2,400, a bishop’s assistant
Georgia Bureau of Investigation began investigating the matter April 6
at the request of Bishop G. Lindsey Davis, who oversees the North
Georgia Annual (regional) Conference of the United Methodist Church and
whose office is in Norcross.
the scam, a man posing as the bishop contacts churches and asks them to
wire money—usually between $700 and $800—to his niece, identified as
Diane Williams, who is traveling in their area and having car trouble.
He asks that the money be sent to Wal-Marts and other large stores.
who was out of the office, said he did not make the calls and “doesn’t
even know anybody by the name Diane Williams,” said his administrative
assistant, Chris Selleck.
very upset about this,” Selleck said of the bishop. “These are usually
small churches that have been targeted. They don’t typically have this
kind of money. But when the bishop calls, they do what they can to
to Selleck, church representatives in Ocala, Fla., southern Georgia and
Maryland wired the money. Leaders of at least three other churches—in
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., southern Georgia and York, Penn.—were given the
same story by a phone caller, but were wary of the request and did not
denomination’s Council of Bishops e-mailed a fraud alert to all bishops
on April 6 and asked that the notice be forwarded to all United
scam) seems to be centered on the East Coast right now—Florida,
Maryland, Virginia—but please alert all your congregations and pastors
that this is not real …,” said the e-mail from Jo Ann McClain, an
administrative assistant with the Council of Bishops in Washington.
*Aldrich is a freelance writer in Franklin, Tenn.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.