A former employee of a luxury car dealership testified Tuesday that Bishop Anthony Jinwright leased two BMWs for Jinwright’s daughter – one in 2003 and another in 2006 – and that Jinwright’s church, Greater Salem City of God, leased a 2001 Mercedes-Benz S500 for Jinwright as a pastoral anniversary gift.
James Gallagher, who now lives in Mountain City, Tenn., said he once worked for Hendrick Motors BMW & Mercedes in Hickory.
Gallagher told the court that in processing the lease papers, he relied on income information supplied to the dealership by Jinwright. Prosecutors now say those income figures were significantly higher than amounts the Jinwrights reported to the IRS.
Jinwright is on trial in federal court charged with mail fraud in relation to information he allegedly gave on lease and loan applications. He also faces multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy on charges that he failed to report about $1.8 million in taxable income.
Jinwright’s wife and co-pastor, Harriet Jinwright, also has been charged with tax evasion but was not indicted on mail fraud in relation to the car leases.
Gallagher said the two BMWs were Christmas gifts to the Jinwrights’ daughter, Antonae. Gallagher said he went over each of the lease applications line-by-line with Anthony Jinwright, who he said also signed the final applications.
The first BMW, Gallagher said, was a 2004 BMW 530, which leased for $810 a month. It was delivered on Christmas Eve 2003, he said. The second was a 2007 BMW 650, which leased for $1,599 a month and was also delivered on a Christmas Eve.
Gallagher said Antonae Jinwright was a co-signer on the second BMW lease. Showing the court a copy of her W-2 form from that year, prosecutors said that Anthony Jinwright greatly inflated his daughter’s income when he applied to lease the vehicle. The figure he gave, according to prosecutors, was roughly three times greater than the amount she earned.
Gallagher said that although the Mercedes-Benz was a gift from Greater Salem, he said that Anthony Jinwright verified the financial information and signed the papers.
In earlier testimony, the Greater Salem deacon who testified Monday that she forged other church members’ signatures onto 23 checks that she gave to the Jinwrights was back on the witness stand for a second day.
Jacquline Joiner Jones told the court Tuesday that she never questioned the Jinwright’s authority to access money held in an Wachovia account controlled by Women of Faith, a Greater Salem women’s ministry.
Prosecutors cited more than 40 checks written on the account and given to the Jinwrights. Nearly all of the checks had the word “reimbursement” written on the memo line.
Jones said some of the checks were “seed offerings” from members of the women’s ministry to the Jinwrights.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Brown then asked Jones, who once worked as an administrative assistant at the church, to explain what seed offering is.
“It’s a gift that you sow or give to someone because you believe in what they’re doing,” she said. “The Bible says if you sow a seed you will reap a harvest.”
“There wasn’t one person in Greater Salem Church that was going to challenge their (the Jinwrights’) authority, correct?” Brown asked Jones at another point in her testimony.
“No,” she replied.
“They didn’t have to account to you, did they, Mrs. Jones?” he also asked.
“No,” she said.
During cross-examination, Harriet Jinwright’s attorney, Kevin Tate, asked Jones to explain why she and others would give his client money.
“Because we love and appreciate her,” Jones said.
AN INTERESTING ASIDE:
Before court began, a reporter asked Harriet Jinwright how she was doing. Jinwright responded that she was fine but tired.
AN ISSUE TO WATCH
Before the court broke for lunch, Tate told Judge Frank Whitney that he was concerned that a spectator in the court might be talking with subpoenaed witnesses in the hallway about testimony given by previous witnesses.
Citing another case as precedent, Tate uttered the word “mistrial.”
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