AP- Church stoked tithing with unemployment scam, ex-members say

The next article released early this morning (here) in the ongoing investigative series from the Associated Press into Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) reveals a level of conniving and deception which causes me to shake my head in amazement and disgust. This account from ex-members outlines a premeditated fraud of a government program meant to help people who meet with temporary unemployment is shocking and sickening.

The scheme to have church members report themselves as unemployed and yet still be employed by companies owned by church leaders took a level of agreement and orchestration from the top leader, Jane Whaley, down the chain of command and influence. She convinced many of her leadership into compromising known laws and ethical standards of business in order to support her lifestyle through the resulting tithes and offerings which were under her total control. The glaring motive of personal enrichment cannot be ignored nor will it surprise those who have spent time as members of WOFF.

From the article:

“When Randy Fields’ construction company faced potential ruin because of the cratering economy, he pleaded with his pastor at Word of Faith Fellowship church to reduce the amount of money he was required to tithe every week.

To his shock, Fields said church founder Jane Whaley proposed a divine plan that would allow him to continue tithing at least 10 percent of his income to the secretive evangelical church while helping his company survive: He would file fraudulent unemployment claims on behalf of his employees. She called it, he said, “God’s plan.”

Please, understand the dynamics here. Randy and his family had been a part of WOFF for over 20 years. He had seen the results for those who choose to refuse Jane’s rendering of “God’s plan.” He explains-

“The price of the refusal, Fields said, could be beatings administered by fellow church members and public shaming by Whaley. The church also might mandate that he be cut off from any contact with his family, he said.”

Allow me to stop here and express my gratitude from all of the ex-members mentioned in this article. It takes courage to expose things done while a member of WOFF which may have crossed the edge into possible illegal activities. Each person faced a fearful decision to obey or lose all. Additional fear of telling the hidden secrets of WOFF had to be conquered or acknowledged.

Randy, “”I’m not proud of what I did, but I have to make this right,”…

The article features pictures of Rachel Bryant as she reviews her tax records showing the unemployment collected under the scheme. She gives us a glimpse of Jane’s joyous attitude at the success of her fraud scheme.

“Jane was heavily involved. She was always asking questions about it,” said Rachael Bryant, who calculated that she had received unemployment benefits of about $200 a week for 18 months while still working for a Word of Faith minister.

“I remember after I was on unemployment for a few months and Jane said, ‘You’re still on unemployment, right?’ And I said ‘yes.’ And she said, ‘Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!'” Bryant said.

Rachel lived with Brooke and Kent Covington. Kent is named in the article as one who rebuked Jeff Cooper for his inquiry with government officials about the scheme.

“Rick Cooper’s son Jeffrey, an attorney and accountant who also has broken with the church, worked for Covington’s company, too. Jeffrey Cooper said he was so uneasy about the practice that he called the Division of Employment Security to ask what he labeled a “hypothetical question.”

“I said, ‘Can an employee file for unemployment while they were still working for a company?'” he told the AP. He said the state official replied that he hoped it was only a hypothetical question because the practice was illegal and anyone involved with it could face serious charges.
Cooper said he relayed the information to (Kent) Covington, who exploded. “He started screaming at me at the top of his lungs that I was wicked,” Cooper said.

The kicker for me was the scheme to forge the required paperwork for unemployment recipients to show they were still looking for work.

“Every week we’d go to the unemployment office and put down that we looked for work at other companies operated by Word of Faith Fellowship leaders,” Rick Cooper said. “Those companies would vouch for the Word of Faith members at the unemployment offices. It was a conspiracy. What’s amazing to me is that this went on for years and no red flags ever went off.”

This casts the net of fraud even wider. The list of companies owned by WOFF leaders can for the most part be gleaned by taking the leadership tree from the WOFF website and cross referencing to the North Carolina Secretary of State website. There are about 25 according to my count barring any more recent defections or closures. Some may be inactive.

This most recent AP article continues the high standard of excellence in their attempt to tell this sad, shocking and disturbing story. I believe there are three main groups reading this series. First, there is Jane and her leadership team giving filtered versions to those inside. The WOFF- faithful are being told each word is a lie. They are not allowed free unfettered access to this series.

Next, there are those ex-members on the outside such as me. Many of us are learning just how things have deteriorated since our departures. Additionally, there are those in the community and elsewhere. Some are hearing about WOFF for the first time. There are many perspectives, opinions and doubts.

The one purpose all of these articles serve is to remind us of who the real enemy is. The struggle for those under a spell is to first admit there could be an enemy taking advantage of or harming them in some way. While inside WOFF, I had no idea who my real enemy was. It is never easy to see through the fog created by familiarity. Over the years, a false sense of comfort came thinking I knew those who were in leadership at WOFF. I did not attend the meetings behind closed doors meant for those who Jane trusted to see her tactics and methods. The idea that those in leadership could be deceptive or harm anyone did not occur to me.

What have the AP articles brought to light about the true enemy of the faithful, believing, hardworking and trusting WOFF member?

Feb 27th- We learned of beatings, abuses and violence.

WOFF member take time and be honest with yourself. Have you ever been beaten, shoved, slapped or seen others who had this happen to them? The real enemy is the one who directs and condones this type of abuse. Who orchestrates these behaviors? Could that person really be your enemy and not your friend?

March 6th – We learned of meetings where leadership convinced other members to change their stories while facing investigations. Members were encouraged to lie.

Ask yourself, is this possible? Have I ever heard of events being retold to deflect scrutiny from outside authorities? Have you ever known anyone to reframe events to make them appear “safe?” Who directed the narrative? Who shouted down someone asking an obvious question which was genuine and sincere? Could that person really be an enemy?

July 25th– We learned of Brazilians coming to WOFF and being used as free labor in potential violation of immigration laws. Well, for many members it was not news. We witnessed it and were told it was “the will of God.” How could the will of God be illegal? Is it possible that those who benefited the most from the free or very cheap labor were in fact enemies and not friends?

Today, we learn of unemployment fraud going on for years inside WOFF. Who benefited the most from the scheme? Who gleefully rejoiced that members were participating in the “divine plan?” Who had to approve of the plan to use government funds to pay people so they would give tithes and offerings? Could this person or group of persons in fact be your enemy and not your friend?

Contrary to what WOFF members are told on the inside, I am not your enemy. The team at the AP is not the enemy here. Investigators searching records and interviewing witnesses are not the enemy. Government officials staying true to their oath of office and taking steps to protect those who have been preyed upon are not the enemy.

WOFF member, do you have to sneak and read this post? Josh and Ray Farmer don’t have to sneak and read my work. Why should you? Is it possible that those pretending to be your friend are not truly your friend? Take a step back, allow the fog of familiarity and misplaced trust to clear. After you hear Jane re-frame this latest article, ask yourself why? Why do I allow the one(s) orchestrating all the fear and abuses to be called my friend(s)? Do you know who the real enemy is in your life?

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Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Jane told me and Josh confirmed it.

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Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted.

(Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 617.

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6 thoughts on “AP- Church stoked tithing with unemployment scam, ex-members say”

  1. We can only hope that the atrocities uncovered will be prosecuted with the same commitment the WOFF has used to keep their members in check. I feel so sorry for the ones who will never leave, never see the truth. Thank you for your commitment.

  2. And the hits just keep on coming!!!
    Thankful for Matthew for not letting go of the Injustice he incurred. If he had given up. I suspect none of this would be coming to light. I can only imagine how hard it is for those who have come forward.
    That lust for that mighty dollar is what is finally going to reveal itself.

  3. Dear John!
    I have read many truthful honest reports on this website. I have also been disturbed deeply on more than one occaison. This post has thoroughly digusted me to the depths of my being! Thank you once again for sharing the ongoing drama and investigative journalism revelations. It is exactly 20 years ago this month that I cut off my contacts with WOFF. Everyone in the cult knows in their hearts that all of these so called “lies” are truth. Covington, Caulder, Reynolds, McDonald…every single one in the top leadership knows the real truth. I hope and pray that a criminal investigation is launched into this. May the criminal practices of church leadership be prosecuted. It is one thing to slap people around and scream in their faces but a totally different one to falsely receive government money through outright fraud. If The church really wants to know where money is to be made I suggest that Jane watch “breaking bad” on netflix and have a new revelation about God’s way. Your sins will find you out. Thank you again John. Those people are snakes. Arthur

  4. Arthur,

    Thank you, for taking time to read and share your thoughts. The deepening crisis at WOFF is of their own making. The light the AP is bringing into the dark corners of WOFF-life has been needed for years!
    I so appreciate the ones who have taken the risk to speak out.

  5. Kim,

    Money Lust is allowed to stay when members keep handing over the cash. Also, when folks keep eating at the Cafe’ and supporting the many other businesses owned by the leaders of this group.
    Do you think somewhere deep inside JW believes she deserves the lifestyle she demands of her followers?


  6. Carol,

    The fervor needed from the investigators from SBI and Dept of Homeland Security is key to keep digging through the dirt to find the nuggets of truth which affirm the testimonies of the survivors.
    I said it months ago, a thorough investigation will result in indictments. I believe that more and more with each passing day.


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