Former African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church Leaders Staccato Powell of Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Sheila Quintana of Vallejo, California Have Been Charged of $14 Million Fraud Against California Churches

Two former leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in California are facing federal charges after authorities alleged they defrauded churches across the state out of $14 million.

Staccato Powell, 62, of Wake Forest, N.C., and Sheila Quintana, 67, of Vallejo each face two counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of California. Powell also faces one count of mail fraud.

Authorities allege the two took control of congregations’ properties and used them to secure loans to benefit themselves in a scheme that ran from around October 2016 to late July 2021, according to the indictment, which was filed Jan. 6 and unsealed Tuesday.

Powell and Quintana served as officers of Western Episcopal District Inc., which they formed in 2016 after Powell was selected to be bishop overseeing the church’s Western District, prosecutors said.

“The indictment alleges that Powell and Quintana conspired to defraud AME Zion Church congregations in Oakland, San Jose, Palo Alto, and Los Angeles by re-deeding the local congregations’ properties in the name of WED Inc.,” prosecutors said.

Court documents describe the conspiracy as a “campaign of pressure and misinformation targeting pastors who served at the pleasure of Powell.”

Before Powell and Quintana’s actions, the congregations had little to no mortgage debt, prosecutors said. The pair used false statements, omitted information and faked documents to manufacture evidence that local congregations agreed to the new mortgages.

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Source: Los Angeles Times