Pastor Who Allegedly Scammed 71-Year-Old Woman Out of Life Savings in Custody
His accomplice is still on the run.
A former pastor who allegedly scammed a 71-year-old woman out of her life savings has been arrested in Florida, Local 10 reported. But his accomplice is still on the run. Read on to find out about the alleged scam, and how to avoid one that may be happening in your area.
Pauline Bryce, 71, said GaRy Souffrant and his son Jahmal Souffrant told her they owned a property in Plantation, Florida, and needed her to put down $20,000 to secure a contract. So she gave it to them. "That's all I had. That's my life savings," she told the station. "I saved it penny by penny."
Bryce's 47-year-old son has epilepsy. Bryce thought she was buying some security for both of them them. She ended up with no money and no property. "I put it down because I wanted a place for me and my son, I didn't want him on the streets," said Bryce. "I haven't heard from him in four weeks. I don't know where he is."
GaRy Souffrant had previously served time for a multimillion-dollar money laundering scam, Local 10 reported. Jahmal Souffrant has not yet been arrested. "Jahmal, you have a baby. Let me tell you something, why go to prison because of lying and stealing with your father?" said Bryce. "How could you deceive your daughter like that? You called me grandma, and this is what you did to me. This is what you did to me. It hurts, but you will pay." "If I am a pastor, I wouldn't do that to anyone," she said. "It's not nice. It's not kind. It's low down, and it's dirty."
Unfortunately, this isn't the first scam to involve people posing as religious leaders. People around the country have been targeted by scammers who send them text messages or emails claiming to be their local pastor and requesting cash or gift cards. "Have you received text messages, emails, or messages through Facebook messenger from someone claiming to be your pastor and asking for money or gift cards, indicating it's an emergency? Don't give. It's not your pastor. It's a scam," says the Diocese of Grand Rapids on its website. That diocese has been targeted by scammers; so have churchgoers in Austin, Texas; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Miami, Florida.
Authorities believe those scammers are using information found on church websites or bulletins to trick people into giving them money. "Fraudsters using Facebook messenger have even gone so far as to include a priest's profile picture, captured from Facebook or another online source, to make their correspondence appear more authentic," said the Diocese of Grand Rapids.