This alert involves a particular form of fraud known as affinity fraud that has been perpetrated upon multiple congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Northern California (USA), specifically Circuit 13*, by persons professing to be servants of Jehovah God.
Affinity fraud is defined as a scam that preys upon the trust and friendship that exist in associations, such as religious groups. Those who utilize affinity scams typically are - or pretend to be - members of the group and often use respected religious leaders within the group to promote the scheme by convincing the members that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile (See g02 5/22 p. 29 under the heading Theft in the Name of God; also g97 9/22 pp. 9-10).
Sadly, an affinity fraud scam manifested during my congregation’s engagement with Regional Building Committee #7 (2009 – 2011).
Having observed this firsthand as a participant in the RBC engagement and as an officer for the congregation’s non-profit religious corporation, I am shedding light on this situation since the wrongdoers, including overseers within the English - Menlo Park Congregation, Regional Building Committee and Circuit 13*, continue to cover up their misconduct. They have done so to avoid scrutiny from persons in the organization with greater responsibility, unsuspecting congregation members as well as the secular authorities.
Understandably, the following information may be difficult for some to believe. As a lifelong servant of Jehovah, I find this situation hard to believe myself. Nevertheless, it has occurred.
In Matthew Chapter 13, Jesus warned of false Christians when providing the illustration of the Wheat and the Weeds. At 2 Timothy 2:20, 21, Paul speaks of vessels “for an honorable purpose” and other vessels “for a purpose lacking honor” within the same house. At Acts 20:29 Paul spoke of “oppressive wolves” entering in among true Christians that would not treat the flock with tenderness.
This alert is intended to provide a general overview of the problem. Further details will be provided in subsequent postings.
In the spirit of Leviticus 5:1, the goal is to overcome the current cover-up of this situation so that upright brothers in positions of organizational oversight can become aware of this problem and take the appropriate action.
The scam involves theft by false pretense (1, 2), private benefit, excess benefit transactions and self-dealing - in short: white collar crime (1, 2).
It appears that participants in this scam occupy strategic positions of responsibility at varying levels of the organization, which may explain why all requests to the Service Department for a special committee to be formed to investigate and resolve this situation have gone unanswered.
Jehovah’s organization itself is not perpetrating this scam, rather a group of deviant, self-willed individuals therein are doing so. Such persons insidiously exploit the arrangements, procedures and infrastructure of the organization to execute their schemes - to their own benefit.
The Scam: Phase 1
The scam often targets Kingdom Hall properties that are fully paid for. A “trigger man” is required to set the plan in motion. This may be the circuit overseer, an RBC representative and/or members of a local body of elders. The trigger man may be complicit in the scam or may simply be directed by complicit persons above him to unknowingly set the stage for the scheme.
The trigger man then initiates a discussion of maintenance needs invariably steering the flow of the conversation toward completely remodeling the Kingdom Hall and/or selling it to purchase new land and build a new one.
If the existing body of elders agree, all is well. If they do not then the non-conformists are arbitrarily deleted as elders and/or diluted by new elders predisposed to proceed with the desired building project that are directed to move into the congregation. This dilution can also occur under the guise of merging congregations.
The newer elders typically become the officers in the congregation’s non-profit religious corporation. In doing so, they amend the articles of incorporation changing the name of the corporation and the by-laws ensuring that the local branch office is named as the recipient of all assets, including the Kingdom Hall property and proceeds from the sale of such, upon dissolution of the corporation. This enables the schemers to acquire operational control of the corporation and thereby assume effective ownership of the Kingdom Hall property.
The Scam: Phase 2a
Next, complicit RBC representatives provide a proposal for a complete remodel of the Hall when, in reality, a more modest project would suffice in-line with organizational directives (Policy Letters dated 4/6/2009 & 12/11/2009). This proposal is approved by the body of elders as a matter of course, per the scheme, regardless of the undue financial burden that is placed on congregation members.
The costs of the building project are inflated with specific intent to exceed the congregation’s available funds thus manufacturing the need for the congregation to obtain an interest free loan from the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Inc.
For example, the actual costs of a modest remodeling project for Kingdom Hall “A” is $35,000. However, complicit RBC members unnecessarily recommend a complete remodel that, in actuality, should cost no more than $100,000. Yet, the RBC representatives specify a project cost of $250,000. This amount exceeds the congregation’s available funds and so they are then directed to obtain an interest free loan from the local branch.
The project proceeds and the work is done for the actual cost of $100,000 – or less. However, the congregation is now responsible for a loan of $250,000 due to the misrepresented project costs.
By inflating construction costs for a project that the congregation doesn’t actually need and then finalizing a loan that will be paid monthly for the next 10 – 25 years, the scam fraudulently creates a revenue stream that constitutes a surreptitious form of tithing, something that Jehovah God and his organization do not approve of.
Based on what occurred during the English - Menlo Park Congregation's RBC engagement, sham building projects have also been used as a means to reposition liquid assets specifically to obscure their source and/or final destination. Such transactions can enable tax evasion especially when performed under the guise of religious non-profit activity, something else that Jehovah God and his organization do not approve of. (See w11 9/1 pp. 21-23)
The Scam: Phase 2b
Alternatively, once the perpetrators of the scam acquire operational control of a congregation’s corporation, thus assuming effective ownership of the Kingdom Hall property, they direct the congregation to finance upgrades to the Kingdom Hall and then sell the property for a substantial profit, anywhere from 200 – 300%. With the original congregation and corporation dissolved at the direction of complicit branch personnel, the publishers are then merged with a neighboring congregation and the perpetrators move on to the next “building” project.
My efforts to expose this problem have been met with stiff opposition. My family has been insidiously undermined and attacked by the perpetrators of this scam. These attacks have included false accusations intended to destroy my reputation and credibility (See g90 5/22 p. 12 - Fallacy Number 1). Nevertheless, the importance of James 1: 2, 3 remains.
While others in Circuit 13 have the basis to do so, at present, a total of seven persons can and will bear witness to the authenticity of this problem. (John 8:17) All that is required now is someone in a position of responsibility within Jehovah’s organization, whose fear of God exceeds his fear of men, who will listen and take the appropriate action to investigate matters. (Matthew 10:28; w01 12/1 p. 23 pars. 17-18)
If such corruption can manifest in this one cited area, there may be cause for concern in other regards. A special committee under the direction of the Governing Body, would be able to investigate these matters and determine the actual extent of the problem to the end of fully resolving this situation. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
An old saying states that “Sunshine is the best disinfectant” - which is to say that a good way to impede underhanded activity is to shed light on it.
If anyone has knowledge of this situation, or others, please notify your congregation elders, circuit overseer, district overseer, local branch, and anyone else who may be positioned to help. If you have the basis to communicate directly with any member of the Governing Body, PLEASE do so as their involvement will be needed to solve this problem. (Leviticus 5:1)
Individuals are also encouraged to participate in a brief survey intended to assess whether or not the scam described herein or other forms of fraud have occurred outside of Circuit 13*. Personal contact information is not requested or gathered therefore survey participants will enjoy complete anonymity.
Friends - In being created in Jehovah God’s image, each person has the fundamental basis and inherent potential to be a force for good.
Jehovah God sees what is taking place and he will soon act for the sake of his own name. (Ecclesiastes 12:14) Take care to be standing on the side of truth when he does.
* Circuit 13 is located on the San Francisco Peninsula and consists of English congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Mateo and Burlingame.