DALLAS - Members of an Old East Dallas church say they've been locked out of their place of worship by a man who they say stole from their church. He’s now facing felony charges.
A grand jury indicted Munger Avenue Baptist Church Pastor Wade Davis for felony theft and is dealing with more than just criminal charges. There's also a civil suit filed against him.
Church members say they long suspected something was wrong with the church's finances, but it wasn't until they took a closer look at bank statements they realized hundreds of thousands of dollars were missing.
Attorneys for the pastor say the accusations are false and there are other motives in play.
Richard Greagor grew up at Munger Avenue Baptist Church all his life but says it's not the same church he once knew.
“You're just not expecting a man of God to betray your trust,” he said. “Things did not seem right financially.”
Greagor says older church members asked him and others, like Erica Williams, to take a look at the church's finances in February of 2016. That’s when they noticed something was off.
“Shopping sprees. There were large cash withdrawals, liquor purchases. It was not good,” he said.
“Oh my gosh. Where there's smoke, there's fire,” Williams said. “And I just found the fire.”
All in all, the purchases totaled more than $400,000, according to court documents. Church members estimate closer to half a million all under a bank card in Pastor Wade Davis' name.
“He began transferring money to the 501C3 account, which he had a debit card to," Greagor said. “That's where the fun began.”
The long-time church members allege they tried to fire Pastor Davis, but he refused to leave.
“They locked us who were not in favor of him out of the church, put physical locks on the bars and locked themselves in the church,” Williams said.
They now claim they have to worship in a funeral home.
Last week, a grand jury indicted Davis on a felony theft charge after being accused of stealing from the church between 2012 and 2016.
Davis' attorney says the money was donated to the church in his name, authorizing him to use it.
Another attorney representing Davis sent a statement saying in part:
"It's a sad day when Christ followers can't resolve their issues beyond court... These same individuals have filed actions against previous pastors to remove them from their leadership duties. This action is without merit."
“He'll have his day in court,” Greagor said. “And we'll get a chance to see if a jury agrees.”
Davis' attorney also accused church members of trying to push Davis out of his financial share of the valuable real estate the church sits on. Church members are suing Davis in civil court for theft and fraud.
Davis is due in court for his felony theft charge on April 11.