A Florida businessman says a Christian ministry should return more than $100,000 to him, accusing the nonprofit's president of soliciting donations under false pretenses and using some of the funds to pay for personal expenses.
Craig Mateer, president of the airport parking and hospitality services company BAGS Inc., is suing World Hope Inc. and its president, David Janney. Janney is also the senior pastor of Orlando Baptist Church, though the church is not a defendant in the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Janney solicited donations from Mateer several years ago to pay for the construction and initial costs associated with the creation of two chicken farms in Kenya. The for-profit farms would then be used to help support the ministry's missionary efforts there.
Janney allegedly told Mateer the ministry already had one profitable farm up and running and that they wanted to expand. In 2009, Mateer donated $43,100 to the ministry to start the other two farms.
Sometime after making the donation, however, he allegedly learned that the chicken farms were controlled or owned by Janney, not World Hope. Once the donation was received, the complaint claims, Mateer learned that the first farm was not operating at a profit, though initially Janney said the opposite was true.
Mateer also accuses the pastor of misleading him as to how his contribution would be used. The suit says the money meant for the farms was "used to pay for unrelated expenses of WH [World Hope], the operation of the church and school in Kenya, or for personal enrichment of Janney and his family members."
The complaint says the ministry's "Kenya Bank Account" records show payments to the Internal Revenue Service and to Janney's father, as well as payments for a "credit card loan" and Janney's personal phone, among other things
Mateer donated an additional $57,600 over the course of just a few months to support missionary efforts in Kenya, but the complaint states that expenditures from the ministry's bank account suggest that some of the money was used on other expenses.
John-Eric Moseler, one of the pastors at Orlando Baptist Church, told The Christian Post he also works with World Hope and has visited the operational chicken farms, which were created to support the organization's Hope Center and Hope Academy.
"Those chicken farms are not in [Janney's] personal name," said Moseler. "No money has ever been diverted to any personal accounts. There was no personal account that money was diverted to, and all those donations go where are intended."
The Hope Center is located in the Kawangware Slum on an eight acre plot of land that used to be a garbage dump, according to the project's Web page. The church there is attended by hundreds of people each week. The Hope Academy, which is just across the street from the Hope Center, now feeds and educates more than 500 students each day, according to Moseler. The school educates those in pre-school through the eleventh grade.
Mateer told the Orlando Sentinel that the conflict with World Hope began after he asked one of his accountants to look into how the ministry was spending his contributions.
"What is documented is a lot of that money went into a lot of different places," Mateer told the publication. "The final answer is the money didn't go where it was supposed to go."
The Sentinel reports that Janney told Mateer in a series of emails that the farms were never intended to be in his name, and that the ministry had been careless with how it allowed money to flow through various nonprofits, though World Hope did not deliberately attempt to defraud or mislead him.
A court document signed by Janney also claims that many of the questionable payments from World Hope Kenya's bank account "were not paid by proceeds of World Hope. We have since changed this book keeping practice of receiving and paying money personally from this account."
The Christian Post was unable to immediately reach Janney's attorney. A hearing in the case has been scheduled for the morning of Feb. 20, 2014.