Federal Law Enforcement Officers Arrest Well-Known Pastor on Charges of Embezzlement

A community center constructed in Tulsa, Oklahoma by the Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church sits empty today thanks to Willard Leonard Jones. The longtime pastor was convicted for embezzling funds set aside for the community center established to aid the neighborhood. According to FBI special agent Kevin Legleiter, Jones used over $900,000 of community center funds for his own personal use.

Agent Legleiter is not the only one responsible for Jones’ conviction. Forensic Accountant Janetta Maxwell, a member of the FBI’s forensic accounting program established in 2009, joined him in the task. Forensic Accountants like Maxwell have additional expertise that enhances the FBI’s financial analyzing capabilities and have helped in breaking many multi million-dollar fraud cases. These include a $200 million dollar case of Medicare fraud between two major Florida corporations and the SAC Capital case, the largest hedge fund insider-trading scheme in history

In 2004 Jones had the idea to construct the facility not far from his church in West Tulsa. It would have provided a variety of crucial services and aid to the struggling community, and Jones was able to solicit around $7 million for its construction and later operation.

In 2012, after the center was finished, Jones approached his board of directors requesting additional money to fund the center’s operation. The board, suspicious of the lack of funds, requested an audit of the church’s accounts. Jones refused, prompting the board to report the case to the police.

It was discovered that Jones had been routing money electronically through a different state and shuffling it between church, community center, and personal accounts, avoiding detection by government agencies in the process. The FBI gained jurisdiction over the case thanks to Jones transferring money across state lines.

It is not known whether Jones intended to use the funds for personal matters from the start, but he has confessed to misappropriating funds from as far back as 2007 alongside failing to report $400,000 to the IRS. He has been charged with multiple counts of wire fraud as well as filing false tax returns.