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Pastor accused of illegally selling church property for $ 900,000

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A New York pastor has been accused of selling his church property to an inexperienced developer while falsely earning $ 900,000 under the deal, according to a recently filed lawsuit.

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a complaint against Bishop Kevin Griffin last week in the New York State Supreme Court. The problem was Griffin’s sale of the property of Childs Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ, a historic place of worship in Harlem where Malcolm X was praised six days after his assassination.

According to the opening statement of the complaint, Griffin allegedly “prompted his church to sell its sanctuary to the developer, who had no track record of church development agreements.”

“The developer received title to the church in exchange for $ 2 million in cash, construction of a new $ 2.5 million facility for the church, and future revenues of approximately $ 1, $ 2 million, ”the complaint said.

“But at the same time, the defendant established a personal financial relationship with the developer, which brought him close to $ 900,000 in benefits.”

The complaint went on to say that the sale supervised by Griffin was “based on false documents that obscured his financial relationship and a clear conflict of interest” with authorities, including the attorney general’s office, which the law says. the State, must give its approval to the sale.

Griffin signed Childs Memorial’s verified petition for approval of the transaction, which he knew to be false because the petition did not disclose, as required, that Griffin was personally receiving developer benefits or that a substantial portion of the proceeds. of the sale was going to be paid to Griffin, ”the complaint continued.

“Griffin’s self-serving conduct has caused substantial harm to his Church and its followers. Before and after closing, the defendant allowed the developer to reverse, modify and extend the terms of the agreement, without consequence and without obtaining the approval of the court or the OAG.

The sale, which took place in 2014, came as the historic building fell into disrepair. The church building, originally the Bluebird Theater, was finally demolished in 2018. As of this month, no replacement buildings have been constructed. according to Nick Garber of Patch.com.

The Childs Memorial congregation has since held worship services at a local storefront, while a proposal to build apartments at the site has been delayed, according to Garber.

Griffin biography page describes him as possessing “an extraordinary business acumen, overseeing a $ 10 million development project that includes a new 10,000 square foot church for the Childs Memorial Temple and a 137 unit shelter for battered women and their children. “.

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