A former director at Greater Salem City of God testified Friday that the church once had a special bank account used to buy luxury items for Anthony and Harriet Jinwright.
Among the items purchased, the former director said, were Louis Vuitton bags, luggage and clothing. Later, he said, the account was used to cover a $1,500-a-month lease payment on a Mercedes-Benz that Anthony Jinwright received as a pastoral anniversary gift from Greater Salem.
Larry Gandy, a member of Greater Salem from 1997 to 2004 and a director his final four years, recalled for the jury that once a month he stood during worship service and asked members to each contribute $3 in a special “pastor’s aid offering.”
Gandy said money collected was put into a separate account.
Despite being a member of Greater Salem’s governing body, Gandy testified that he and other directors were kept in the dark about some aspects of church finances.
“We were made to feel like we were there to assist (the Jinwrights), not to run anything,” Gandy said during Day 12 of the Jinwrights’ federal trial on charges of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion.
Gandy said the special account was closed after Chitwood & Chitwood, a Tennessee consulting firm, advised directors that it was inappropriate.
Gandy said he resigned from the board shortly after directors called a special meeting in the fall of 2004.
He said the church was suffering financial troubles when a Mecklenburg sheriff’s deputy showed up to repossess Greater Salem’s vans because of nonpayment. The following Sunday, Gandy said, Anthony Jinwright admonished the congregation from the pulpit that they were not paying enough to support the ministry.
Shortly thereafter, Gandy said, directors asked Jinwright for permission to hold a special directors meeting without the senior pastor. The meeting, he said, was held on Labor Day.
To prepare, Gandy said, directors asked an employee in the church finance office to gather financial documents that would shed light on Greater Salem’s debts and financial obligations.
Gandy said directors learned for the first time at that meeting that the church was paying the Jinwrights’ federal taxes and that Harriet Jinwright’s mother was receiving church pay.
Gandy said directors also learned that the Jinwrights were using multiple church-paid cell phones, including a special phone for trips to the Bahamas.
After the meeting, Gandy said, directors made several recommendations to Anthony Jinwright. Among other things, he said, they requested that Anthony Jinwright reduce the number of visiting preachers who came to the church. They also asked that his mother-in-law be removed from the church payroll.
Gandy said he resigned from the board about a month after the special meeting, shortly after he requested a copy of the church’s application for tax-exempt status and realized that much of the information it contained was false, including salary information for Anthony and Harriet Jinwright.
On Oct. 14, 2004, Gandy said, he tendered his written resignation. Attached, he said, was a copy of the church’s application for tax-exempt status and other information he copied from an IRS website.
Gandy said he did not intend to leave the church. He even went the following Sunday, he said. But while standing in the foyer with his family, he said, he saw a closed-circuit monitor and heard Anthony Jinwright say from the pulpit that he was not concerned about the IRS and that God could “fix it” so that the IRS would owe him money.
Gandy said he and his family left immediately and never returned.
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