Pastor Accused of Embezzling Nearly a Million Dollars From Community Center
Pastor Willard Jones is now facing federal charges of wire fraud and one count of a false tax return. Jones is the pastor of Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church and former director of Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project.
Tulsa's Channel 8 tried to contact Jones at his home, but there was no answer. Federal investigators say Jones took more than $933,500 from the community center and used the money to pay for construction on his home, mortgage and luxury items.
"Reverend Jones claimed the money was used to pay for construction of the community center when in fact he was using stolen funds on hotels, restaurants, gambling at casinos, liquor, automobiles and luxury items, including a Rolex watch, a monogrammed mink fur coat, with matching hat and gloves," said U.S. Attorney Danny Williams.
Prosecutors say Jones crafted a scheme, raising money and building the center. Investigators say Jones transferred money from the community center account to the church accounts, where he accessed the cash.
"I am shocked, because Rev. Jones, I don't know what got into him," said community member Richard Scott. Church members confirmed that Jones confessed in church last Sunday, and apologized. "I am hurt that he would do something like this, but you are not supposed to steal. You are supposed to get your blessing," said Scott.
The community center has been a blessing, providing healthcare and activities to the South Haven community in west Tulsa. Prosecutors say a 2012 audit revealed that all of the money for operations was gone. Jones left his position as director after the audit, according to prosecutors.
The FBI says Jones has caused spiritual pain.
"They've been wounded by Rev. Jones. There is no doubt theatrically justice will be served," said James Finch with the FBI.
Willard Jones has a federal court date set for next Friday.