Thursday, November 24, 2005


Pastor accused of stealing ID of parishioner

Ensley, Florida - An Ensley pastor facing fraud charges was arrested for the second time in a month -- this time on identity theft charges, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office reported Wednesday.

The Rev. Gabrieli Andre Davis, pastor at True Love Community Baptist Church, is charged with forging the signature of a church trustee and using her personal information to get a loan so the church could purchase a $6,000 riding lawn mower.

Davis, 53, of the 6200 block of Songbird Lane, was taken to Escambia County Jail late Tuesday, then released after posting $5,000 bond.

Neither Davis nor church officials returned telephone calls Wednesday.

Davis was arrested in October and charged with bank fraud, organized fraud and grand theft, the Sheriff's Office reported. The bank fraud and grand theft charges were dropped by the state attorney's office. Davis pleaded innocent to organized fraud. A court date has been set for Jan. 4.

The October arrest stemmed from tax-consulting work he performed for another church through his bookkeeping service. Sheriff's investigators said that between 1998 and 2004, Davis falsely billed Damascus Road Baptist Church for more than $31,000, sheriff's Investigator John Canning said.

The identity theft complaint was part of a separate investigation of the March purchase of a 23-horsepower EverRide "Z-Mower" with a 44-inch cut, on which a down payment of $2,000 was made.

The victim, Ardelia Catchings, received a call in July from Sheffield Financial telling her she was behind on her payments, a Sheriff's Office arrest report stated.

Catchings explained she didn't have an account with Sheffield, but the company sent her a credit application filled out with her name, home address, home phone, work place, work address, work phone, Social Security number and date of birth. Catchings' forged signature appears four times on the loan application, the arrest report stated.

Catchings' personal information was on record at the church because she was a trustee, the report stated.

Catchings filed a complaint with the Sheriff's Office in July. She told investigators Davis had asked her to help buy the church a lawn mower, but she turned him down. She said she did not allow anyone to use her information to buy the mower.

Davis told the investigator that the incident was a misunderstanding, that Catchings had told him, "Do what you have to do," which prompted him to sign her name on the loan document. Davis made the down payment, the report stated.

Court records show Davis had been on probation related to separate workers' compensation fraud, credit card fraud and grand theft charges in 2002 and 2003.

"It's not common for someone involved in religious activities to be a suspect in so many different crimes," Canning said. "Given his criminal history, you would think he would want to make an effort and set an example."

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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