Saturday, March 19, 2011

Black pastor arrested in fraud case

Mwinda Lezoka, a black evangelical pastor facing a long list of creditors, has been arrested and charged along with two others in a fraud case involving a zoo. Quebec provincial police said the three were arrested in connection with a $978,000 fraud involving Parc Safari in Hemmingford, Quebec. Lezoka, 47, the minister of Bethel Christian Community Church in Montreal's Ahuntsic neighborhood, made headlines in the summer of 2010 when he faced a dozen lawsuits filed by former parishioners, contractors hired to do work for him and Parc Safari. Parishoners lent Lezoka hundreds of thousands of dollars for the benefit of the church but never saw any returns. The police said that between 2005 and 2008, funds were transferred 37 times from the Parc Safari bank account to several outside accounts, including Actions Béthel du Canada Inc. Police said the transactions were not properly authorized. "The transfers appear to have been made by the accountant that had been hired by Park Safari. The signatures appeared to have been forged," said Sureté du Quebec spokesperson Joyce Kemp. Police said the Parc Safari accountant Ruth Eugene, 38, is one of Lezoka's parishioners. Eugene was arrested and charged with fraud along with Lezoka and Jasmin St-Louis, 43. Police said Parc Safari managers suspected fraud in 2010 when they received a bounced check in the mail. It was written out to a company they did not recognize, and it was written from the zoo's trust account. Park director Jean-Pierre Ranger said when the check was found, he confronted Eugene. "There was no answer … that is when the chips came down," said Ranger. Parc Safari then filed a lawsuit against Lezoka and a corporation registered under his name for almost $1 million for perceived fraud.

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