Owen McManus Jr., a third-generation minister and his wife, Tammy, who lead the 4,000-member City Church of New Orleans and its affiliated grammar school, Bishop McManus Academy in Louisiana, are now likely to be arrested for tax fraud, according to documents from the New Orleans Police Department.
In a report dated May 20 cited by WWL-TV, police say arrest warrants are likely to be issued for the husband and wife team. charging them with filing false public records seeking Louisiana film tax credits. A warrant is also expected to be issued for the arrest of Bishop McManus Academy's Principal, ToniLynn Tyson, and the school's Executive Pastor, Keith Barnes, for theft by fraud of federal education grants.
The pastors, however, "vehemently deny any wrongdoing. They haven't committed any crimes, they haven't attempted to commit any crimes," said their lawyer, Pat Fanning, according to WWL. The charges are based on the testimony of four separate informants.
McManus wrote, produced and starred in feature films, including one called "The Good Life" that tells the story of Mikey, a nightclub owner who realizes he has to turn his back on a life of sex, crime and drugs.
A former City Church deacon and employee, Robert McGill Jr., played the role of Mikey in the film and confirmed to WWL that he is one of the informants mentioned in the police report.
After making "The Good Life" using money from his church, McManus started to make a sequel, called "The Good Life: Awakening," but the project fell apart when McGill, refused to continue in the role as Mikey.
Another informant who is in state prison for writing bad checks in an unrelated matter was interviewed by New Orleans law enforcement officials in January, according to WWL. He told them that Owen McManus approached him before filming "The Good Life: Awakening," to learn how to tap into the state's film tax credit program.
"These were his exact words: 'You make a film for $150,000, you bill for $500,000 and you end up making a film for free,'" the informant told WWL in a recent interview about his conversation with McManus.
The report alleges that McManus overstated how much it would cost to produce the sequel so he could defraud the state's film tax credit program.
Fanning said, however, that the costs outlined in the tax-credit application were only a proposed budget, not a request for actual state funds.
"The proposed budget is an estimate and it's, 'If we do this, will we be eligible if we come in and apply later and submit audits and show that we actually spent this amount of money,'" Fanning told WWL. "They never got [to] the point where they said they spent any money or asked for any film tax credits."
He also denied that Owen McManus ever plotted to defraud the state tax credit program as alleged in the police report.
"So we have an unnamed informant, hiding behind his anonymity, now saying Owen McManus told me something, which, even if he made those statements — which he did not — would not be a crime," Fanning said.
Bank records for McManus, the church and a for-profit film production company McManus created called Redd Bone Productions were also subpoenaed by the Office of the New Orleans District Attorney.
McGill identifies himself as the informant in the report alleging that City Church illegally transferred funds from the nonprofit church to Redd Bone, according to WWL.
"A nonprofit, tax-exempt entity was funneling money to a for-profit LLC under the banner of Redd Bone Productions," McGill said.
The tax credit application lists a $19,600 salary for McGill to work on the movie, but he said he never received that much from City Church and what he did receive was under an employment contract as the church maintenance supervisor, not for his work on the movies, according to WWL.
The report doesn't say why Robert McGill refused to continue in his role as Mikey but it appears to be connected with the current allegations against the couple.
In a post to his Facebook page on May 1, he called the couple liars and scammers.
"These are the most undeniable lies. We all know no one in the cast or crew made a penny for their involvement. Yet they claimed tax credit (which means they want the government to reimburse them for money they spent) totaling $189,600 for money they claimed they paid the people listed on that document. Most of whom had little to nothing to do with filming," McGill wrote.
"And for the ones that did, we volunteered. On top of that they claimed tax credit for expenses they say they had to pay for locations. We all know Owen boasted about how they have favor and people donated cars and boats and locations for filming. Besides that, we never filmed at a theatre, hotel ballroom or wedding reception. They rented hotel rooms to film twice. All those other scenes we filmed either at the church or run and gun (steal the shot) style," he continued.
"Bottom line, (sic) their is no integrity or transparency. They tried to scam the government and got caught. I can't post the BMA scandals documents because they actually got that money and will be arrested very soon," he added.
On Wednesday, he declared in another post to Facebook directed at the church that "I'm moving on with my life."
"City Church I'm moving on with my life. If I know u from there and you have not been to my new house, rode in my new truck or been out in public with me and my wife ... then (middle finger) to death," he wrote, signing it off as "Deacon Rob."
Fanning told WWL, however, there were no improper transfers from City Church to Redd Bone.
"I understand that the City Church Film Account got reimbursed a lot of money, also, by Redd Bone or the McManuses whenever they got revenues in," Fanning said. "It ended up being a net-loss. Redd Bone never made any money."
An anonymous informant also alleges in the police report that she falsified curriculum for teacher development classes, causing a contractor to be falsely billed for federal grant funds for the church affiliated Bishop McManus Academy.
"Me personally, I would have to make up courses and slides and say we did these hours and log them and submit them and allocate how much everybody got paid, but in reality we were cleaning floors, scrubbing, cleaning upholstery, anything that needed to be done in the school or the church, we were doing that week," the former teacher told WWL in March. "We never sat in a single course."