Church group based in Indy scammed out of more than $18,000

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 24, 2016) – An Indianapolis-based church group was ripped off by con artists. This week, the headquarters for the Free Methodist Church USA told Indianapolis police they were scammed out of nearly $20,000.

“It was very sad because someone stole money from people that really needed it,” said Free Methodist Church USA chief operating officer Larry Roberts.

Roberts says last week, the group’s finance director got an email from a bishop asking to wire $18,680. The email looked official and the money was sent.

Red flags were raised only after the bishop failed to respond.

“So we called the bishop and he said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’ and we turned white really fast,” said Roberts.

The thieves in this case did their homework and made a fake email look real. The suspects essentially cloned the bishop’s email address.

Logging onto their website, it’s not hard to find detailed bios and pictures of the group’s leadership.

That’s information the scammers used to make the fraud seem legitimate.

“It wasn’t just the email address, but that they knew the players,” said Roberts. “That’s why this is a really scary thing that could happen to anybody.”

The world ministry center supports local church’s and mission work around world.

Larry says the stolen money will be sorely missed.

“You know the money that was taken would have paid for a lot of things that would have made a big difference in people lives. It’s money we can’t get back, believe me we’ve tried,” said Roberts.

Larry hopes the way the crooks committed the crime can serve as a warning to businesses everywhere.

The Free Methodist Church USA leadership has learned their lesson and stepped up security in recent days, but the scammers have continued to send them emails requesting another $32,000.

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