DETROIT (WXYZ) - He made big promises to pastors, but instead local church leaders say their flocks were fleeced.
The 7 Action News Investigators go undercover to expose a man who pastors and law enforcement experts alike are saying took their money and their trust.
"You've got a program that will generate about $400,000 over the course of the summer," said Robert Mosley.
Our undercover cameras caught Mosley making his pitch about small churches in Detroit coming together to feed under-privileged children.
"And I'm going to be completely transparent: my intention is I want to put Gleaners out of business here in Detroit, as far as serving kids," said Mosley on the tape.
Local pastors say the 36-year-old from Arizona spent months in Detroit, going from church to church, accepting thousands of dollars to help the churches join the Michigan Department of Education's Summer Food Service Program. It's a state program that provides healthy food for low-income students who may not get regular meals once school is out for the summer.
Pastor Constance Harvey says at first, the idea seemed Heaven-sent.
"It's a commission and its part of the ministry, where you feed the hungry," said Harvey.
The minister from the Rose of Sharon Christian Assembly on Detroit's East Side says a close friend introduced her to Mosley. Just like he does during the meeting we caught with our undercover camera, Pastor Harvey says Mosley promised his services and the Summer Food Program would be a gold mine.
"You won't be out any money," said Mosley on the tape.
"It would bring anywhere from approximately $300,000 to $400,000 a year as income, to be used in the community, and also to be used to benefit the church," said Harvey.
Harvey says what Mosley wanted in return was $300 a week from each church.
After handing over $600 from her church's community development group, Pastor Harvey decided to do her own research, both on the Summer Food Service Program and on Mosley.
"Two plus two was not equaling four," said Harvey.
Pastor Harvey says when she called the Michigan Department of Education, she found out, Robert Mosley was not associated with the Summer Food program at all. She also learned that churches don't need to pay anyone to participate. Plus, state officials say there's no way to make money on the program – non-profits are only reimbursed for the meals the prepare and serve.
So Pastor Harvey reached out to the Detroit Crime Commission, a non-profit headed by former Detroit FBI leader Andrew Arena.
"To play on part of our society that we're trying to help – the most vulnerable, the needy the hungry the homeless, and then go to religious institutions and then play on them, that's pretty despicable," said Arena.
The Detroit Crime Commission set up a meeting with Mosley, and let our undercover camera capture the pitch he made. Meanwhile, Arena's investigators were on the case.
"Law enforcement would have never looked at this," said Arena. "But we were able to take the time and put the whole thing together and really kind of show what illegal activity he was doing."
The Detroit Crime Commission handed their investigation over to the Wayne County Prosecutor's office, which is currently conducting a criminal investigation.
7 Action News also did some digging. We learned that a state grand jury indicted Mosley in Arizona on 8 counts of theft and fraudulent schemes. Mosley was accused of stealing thousands of dollars from Arizona churches through a bank in Phoenix. Prosecutors say the charges were later dismissed because the parties agreed to resolve the case civilly.
Pastor Harvey says she started warning other churches that Mosley may be taking their money for a program that isn't what he claims.
"And do you know that many of those pastors thought that I was just being a ‘butt-in-ski,' that I was just trying to stop them from getting money from their ministries… I said you know you just can't give people's money away like that. It's not your money, it's not coming out of your pocket," said Harvey.
7 Action News has learned at least 15 churches have made complaints about Mosley with the Wayne County Prosecutors office.
But we've had a hard time getting pastors from some of those churches to talk to us on camera because they say they're embarrassed that they lost so much money. One of them told 7 Action News, his organization paid Mosley more than $11,000. Another one said he lost $8,000.
The head of the state's summer food program told 7 Action News that the USDA, which is where the funding originates, is now looking into Mosley as well because Mosley has been "operating" in at least 3 other states
Others have taken to the internet to warn churches – calling Mosley a deceiver and a devil.
Mosley fired back with his own YouTube video, saying he's already helped 100 churches around the country:
"I hang my hat on the fact that 100,000 kids will not go hungry because of the organizations I've helped get this program," said Mosley in the YouTube video.
After the Crime Commission sting that we caught on camera, some church leaders confronted him about taking their money, and Mosley left town.
If Mosley comes back to Michigan, both Pastor Harvey and the Detroit Crime Commission are watching for him.
"I think the general public needs to know this guy is out there, this guy is doing this. Beware," said Arena.
"I'm a fighter: harmless as a dove, but I can be as wise as a serpent now, and I'm here for the people of God, and my responsibility is to look out," said Harvey.
It's believed Mosley is currently on the West Coast – so far he has not returned our phone calls to comment on this investigation.
7 Action News also learned that the California Department of Education is aware of Mosley in that state. They gave us this information:
The CDE is aware that Mosley provided consulting services, pertaining to USDA's Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), to faith-based organizations in the Los Angeles area. Many of these agencies contacted CDE, and we shared information with them about the law that you will see below.
Just to let you know, we are not aware of any California local educational agency (e.g., public school district) contacting us about Mosley. However, CDE did send an e-mail in April to all of our SFSP Sponsors, Potential SFSP Sponsors, and our Summer Meal Coalition (a group of summer meal advocates) cautioning them that SFSP sponsors are prohibited from contracting out the management of the SFSP program, and that fees paid to a consultant for management of the SFSP are unallowable expenses. The text of the e-mail is listed below:
Date: April 12, 2013
Dear Summer Food Service Program Sponsors, Prospective Sponsors, and Advocates:
It has come to our attention that there may be individuals offering consulting services to Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors and potential SFSP sponsors, especially in the faith-based community.
Please be aware that per Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 225.15 (a)(3) SFSP sponsors are prohibited from contracting out the management of the program, and that fees paid to a consultant for management of the SFSP are an unallowable expense. There are no required fees to apply for the SFSP, and the California Department of Education SFSP staff are available to provide any technical assistance needed to operate the SFSP at no charge. We would appreciate your assistance in clearing up any inaccurate information circulating by sharing this message with your contacts and throughout the SFSP community networks.
The Associate Superintendent with the Health and Nutrition Services Division for the Arizona Department of Education told 7 Action News that they received complaints from at least 15 different faith-based groups there, who said Mosley charged them money to be part of the Summer Food Service Program.
Officials from all three (MI, CA, AZ) state Departments of Education that we spoke to stress that non-profits can apply to be part of the program directly with each state. There is no fee to do it, and any "consultant fees" cannot be reimbursed. They also point out that there is no way for an organization to make money – it's strictly a reimbursement program.
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