Emmanuel Way of the Cross Church on Stoneshore Road and New Beginnings Apostolic Faith on Pembroke Lakes Circle both received the calls from the scammers in mid to late April.
The premise was the same: An out-of-state Bishop called the pastor of each church and said he had a relative who was moving to Virginia Beach with her family and he wanted them to be a part of the pastor’s congregation.
Fred Hill, pastor of Emmanuel Way of the Cross and Joseph King, pastor of New Beginnings, both say the “bishop” was very familiar with their churches and them personally, even claiming to have met them many years ago.
“He knew a lot about our church. The different associations that we were members of,” Hill said. “He also mentioned some well known preachers in the areas and outside of the areas that we knew and had fellowship with.”
Soon after the phone call with the “bishop,” the pastors received phone calls from the mother of the family who called herself “Rosa Allen.”
“Allen” said they’d been moving from Georgia and had gotten into car trouble in North Carolina.
“She had an accident on the interstate – her front tire had blown out and she had hit the guardrail,” Hill recalls.
It’s the same story she told to King.
“Supposedly they had a flat tire, ran off the road, and damaged their vehicle so badly that they had it towed to Firestone,” King remembers.
“Allen” had told the men she was a loan officer and would repay them when she arrived in Hampton Roads.
Both men ended up wiring money to her, only to receive phone calls just an hour later alleging the mechanic had found more issues and needed additional money.
“She gave me another call indicating that both of the axels were broken instead of one,” Hill recalled.
That’s where the scam would end for Hill – an employee at his Navy Federal Credit Union in Chesapeake stopped him before he sent any more money and helped launch an investigation uncovering the scam.
Hill lost nearly $2,000 in the scam.
Pastor King on the other ended up sending the additional money for the car repair and an additional loan for housing – costing him roughly $5,000, before he realized that “Allen” was not real and that he’d been duped.
Pastor Hill says another preacher in Portsmouth told him he’d received nearly identical phone calls earlier this week.
Despite having their kindness preyed upon, neither of the Beach pastors say they harbor any resentment.
“It’s not to say I’m not wiser as a result, because I am wiser,” Hill commented, “but I am able to still walk in love.”