LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Dozens of African-American churches in California have allegedly fallen victim to a scam involving computer kiosks. The scheme cost the churches hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Up to 30 churches in California may have fallen victim to the computer kiosk scam. The churches thought they were providing a free service to parishioners, but instead got stuck for thousands of dollars in lease fees.
The investigation targets four individuals and three national leasing companies. They are believed to be part of a nationwide scam involving churches in at least 10 states.
The computer kiosk at Bryant Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church was moved back to the church lobby. It was hoped it would generate money and convenience. Instead it became part of a costly and possibly criminal scam.
“People have to deal honorably and this operation looks loose at the very least and intentionally deceptive at the worst,” said California Attorney General Jerry Brown.
Bryant Temple is one many African-American churches trying to help their congregations without spending money, adding to their collections without passing the plate.
Hundreds of similar churches were targeted nationally by United Leasing Associates and Television Broadcasting Online. Some churches had several computer kiosks.
The churches signed leases and would be reimbursed. The kiosks would show advertising and print coupons for local merchants. The sales offices were in Beverly Hills and Washington, D.C.
“Mine never worked. I didn’t even have the loop, didn’t have any advertisements, I didn’t have anything,” said Reverend Gayle Davis-Culp, Holy Trinity AME.
Davis-Culp, like other ministers, got stuck with the lease costs of as high as $45,000 when the companies skipped town.
The kiosks are just wooden cabinets with a cheap desktop computer inside and programs that often didn’t work.