The Church Paid Her Light Bill, So She Stole over $19K From it in Return

Churches are regularly besieged by professional victims who invariably turn out to be professional victimizers.  Like this woman.

A woman who came to a Kenner church for help with a delinquent utility bill is now accused of stealing more than $19,000 from the church’s coffers to pay for a car, her insurance, cable and other bills, according to authorities.

Shareafa Watkins, 27, of 3100 Phoenix St., Kenner, was arrested and booked Friday with identity theft valued over $1,000, illegal transfer of monetary funds and being a fugitive from another jurisdiction, according to Lt. Brian McGregor, spokesman for the Kenner Police Department.

The pastor of Oakland Baptist Church in Kenner contacted police on June 21 after he noticed a shortfall in the church’s bank account, according to McGregor. The pastor did a little digging and realized that someone seemed to be paying personal bills with the church’s money, without permission.

The bank provided the pastor with Watkins’ name. He told investigators he had never heard of her, McGregor said. No one from the church could be reached Wednesday for comment.

Detectives eventually determined that Watkins began illegally tapping the church’s bank account in early 2015 after she received help paying a late Entergy bill, according to an arrest report. The church gave Watkins a check made out to the power company.

But Watkins took down the account and routing numbers from the check, and then used the information to pay other bills to the tune of about $19,475, an arrest report said. Those accounts included:

Sprint cellphone account: $3,253
Cox Cable: $1,135
Jefferson Parish Department of Water: $489
Entergy: $2,139
State Farm: $4,967
All State Insurance Company: $311
Santander Consumer USA (car payment): $7,181

Churches, beware- if someone comes asking for help they probably don’t need it.  The people who really need help are the ones you hear about at second hand.  Investigate, don’t simply hand over a check or cash.  It’s sad but true- there are thieves happy to take advantage of your kindness and by helping them you become unable to help those genuinely in need.

3 thoughts on “The Church Paid Her Light Bill, So She Stole over $19K From it in Return

  1. timbertolet 23 Jul 2016 at 11:45 am

    Also, be careful with giving “gift cards”. We used to purchase gift cards from the local grocery store that could “only” be used there. We figured it was a safe way to help people (especially mom’s with kids) get necessities. Then we found out that in town the local pawn shop offered 50% cash value for them–so people would turn them in for cash to get drugs, alcohol, etc.


    • Jim 23 Jul 2016 at 11:53 am

      wow. who even thinks of that?


  2. Matt Walker 23 Jul 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Ask for references. This is our new policy. It eliminates 99.9999% of those who ask for help. References should include family members, previous employers, and another pastor from whom they have asked for help. If they need help these people will know.


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