May 19, 2010 10:42 AM by Sharlee Jacobs
ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (AP) - State police said the seven people
arrested Tuesday on felony theft counts, including two elected
officials, were involved in a check-cashing scheme designed to
divert insurance money from a Clinton nonprofit organization and a
Authorities arrested veteran West Feliciana Parish Police Juror
John Cobb, 52, of St. Francisville; Cobb's wife, Carol, 48; and his
mother-in-law, Louisa P. Jones, of Weyanoke, who are officers of
the Union Bethel Family Church.
Cobb has been a police juror for more than 22 years, including
eight years as president in the 1990s.
Also arrested were first-term East Feliciana Parish School Board
member Oliver L. Wingfield, 79, 7014 Tommy James Lane, Jackson; the
Rev. George Veal, 61, of Ethel; and contractors David Deloach, 55,
and John B. Perry, 62.
Wingfield and Veal organized the nonprofit organization
Feliciana Enrichment Center Inc., whose building in Clinton was
destroyed by fire in August 2008.
The seven were each booked at the West Feliciana Parish Jail on
a single count of felony theft in excess of $500 and released on
"It'll be all right," Cobb said before his arrest, saying
later he does not plan to resign from office.
"I haven't done anything; why should I?" he said.
State police began investigating the activities of the Cobb
family in November after other Union Bethel Family Church leaders
questioned the handling of church funds by John and Carol Cobb
dating back to December 2008.
West Feliciana Parish Sheriff J. Austin Daniel said he asked
state police to look into the allegations because one of his
deputies had been pastor of the church but left in a dispute with
John Cobb and others.
The church became aware of the scheme after an employee of the
Bank of St. Francisville contacted church members to notify them of
a large overdraft of the church account, which exceeded $11,000,
state police said in a news release.
After reviewing bank records, detectives uncovered a complex
series of bank transactions that originated from a check written to
the Union Bethel Family Church for $80,000 on Dec. 5, 2008, by the
Feliciana Enrichment Center Inc. and signed by the company's
president and vice president, Wingfield and Veal, respectively.
The news release says Wingfield and Veal gave the check to John
Cobb, and in exchange, Cobb gave Veal two $25,000 checks written
from the church account by Cobb and signed by Jones and Carol Cobb.
The two checks were made out to Perry and Deloach as
compensation for contract work on the church that was never
performed, the news release says.
The church was building a new sanctuary during the transactions.
Veal had Perry endorse one of the checks, and then deposited it
into his personal account at a credit union in Zachary. Veal then
paid Perry $400 cash for his participation in the transaction, the
news release says.
Veal also brought Wingfield the second $25,000 check that was
written to David Deloach, and Wingfield delivered the check to
Deloach, his son-in-law, who deposited the check into his personal
bank account on Dec. 18, 2008, the news release says.
Deloach then wrote Wingfield numerous checks over a period of
time out of his personal bank account totaling $23,500. Deloach
received $1,500 for aiding Wingfield in defrauding Union Bethel
Family Church, the news release says.
John Cobb is accused of later going to a St. Francisville bank,
cashing in the check for $80,000 in exchange for two cashier's
checks and writing one cashier's check to E.C. Construction in the
amount of $15,000.
The second cashier's check was written to Union Bethel Family
Church in the amount of $65,000. Cobb endorsed the cashier's check
written to E.C. Construction and cashed the check at a Zachary
credit union before depositing $13,000 of the cash into his
personal bank account, the news release says.
Cobb then deposited the second cashier's check into the bank
account of Union Bethel Family Church that same day to cover the
two checks written from the Union Bethel Family Church banking
account to pay Perry and Deloach.
Detectives also discovered during the course of the
investigation that John Cobb received and cashed several other
checks from Union Bethel Family Church for work that he never
performed, totaling over $6,000 from May 2009 through February, the
news release says.
Twentieth Judicial District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla said he has
not seen the results of the state police investigation, but he said
the Clinton nonprofit was barred by law from giving insurance money
resulting from the fire to anything other than another nonprofit