Saturday, August 18, 2001

Man accused of fleecing church members

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — A man accused of taking thousands of dollars from central Kentucky church members by posing as an overseas missionary made his initial appearance Thursday in federal court.

        In a criminal complaint, Daniel Lubowa is accused of using the mail and interstate communications in a scheme “to defraud and to obtain money by false and fraudulent pretenses from various church members.”

        Mr. Lubowa appeared before U.S. Magistrate James Todd after being brought to Lexington from the Boyle County Jail.

        The FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating Grace Ministries International, a now-defunct organization in Rochester, Minn., that Mr. Lubowa operated.

        An affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent David R. Goodson Jr. says that Mr. Lubowa falsely represented himself as Mark Phelps, who raised money for the poor in South Africa, Sudan and Uganda. Under that guise, Mr. Lubowa obtained money, clothing, electronics, food and lodging, the affidavit says.

        “It is the belief of this agent that Mr. Lubowa has diverted most of the money he has received for his personal benefit,” Mr. Goodson says in the sworn affidavit.

        A records check with the U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization Service found that Mr. Lubowa was not authorized to work in the United States. He was supposed to leave the United States on Aug. 20, 1996.

        Grace Ministries dissolved in 1998, but a volunteer bookkeeper for the organization said he signed a letter required by the INS so that Mr. Lubowa's visa could be extended.

        Mr. Lubowa used a Richmond, Ky., bank account to deposit checks and wire transfers to a Rochester, Minn., bank. He also used Western Union to transfer money to Minnesota, the affidavit says.

        Mr. Lubowa was charged with felony theft by deception in June after ministers affiliated with the Mercer Baptist Association said their congregations gave $3,225 to Mark Phelps or Grace Ministries. Churches in neighboring Boyle County gave $8,800.


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