Former parishioners of a New Jersey church want to know what happened to tens of thousands of dollars of their donations.
Former parishioners of the Light and Love Evangelistic Church in Pemberton, New Jersey contacted the NBC 10 Investigators after they say money they donated to build a new church disappeared.
“There are other people that have given, you understand, sacrificed for the vision of a church that is not,” former church member Dorothy Lutes said.
Lutes and her sister won a $300,000 lottery jackpot in 2003. Tax records show the sisters donated $48,500. They say the money was donated to pay off the mortgage on land where a new church would be constructed, however 12 years after the donation there is no new church.
Public records show senior pastor Frederick Dean and his wife Pastor Eveline Dean sold the land for $230,000 in 2012. Public records show they paid $101,325 for it in 2001.
The sisters are among several former parishioners who say they helped pay for the land and expected the church to use their money to eventually build a new facility.
“I want to know what happened to the money and we want our money back,” Lutes said.
“They know what to do about these serious questions,” Senior pastor Frederick Dean said when asked about the donations and land sale.
The Deans said to contact their lawyer, however messages to their attorney were not returned.
Since the NBC 10 Investigators contacted the Deans some former parishioners say they received a letter saying in part, “Light and Love decided to abandon the project” and “Light and love has offered to return to contributors their contributions.”
Lutes and her sister say they didn’t get a letter. They hired a lawyer.
“Track record is they did nothing for ten years,” Attorney Mark Fury said. “Then they sold the property without speaking to the parishioners.”
Fury said he’s prepared to take the Deans to court to recover his client’s money.
“The bible says you reap what you sow,” Lutes said. “If you sew a bad seed then you reap a bad harvest.”
The Deans sold the land to Pemberton Township.