That's what I'd say if I woke up to that headline. But it's true.
Part 1: WARNING: Money-launderers using muslims as red herrings.
Describes their multi-million dollar money laundering operation.
Part 2: Keeping up with the Joneses: Koran burning con artists
Shows how they fleece their flock to feather their nest.
Part 3: NEWSFLASH: Koran burning con artists couldn't care less!
Chronicles this recurring pattern with Terry Jones.
Part 4: Keeping up with the Joneses: How do you honor the dead?
Shows how undeniably unscrupulous Terry Jones really is.
Terry loves to go on TV and radio and talk about how his "Islam is of The Devil" campaign is really motivated out of love for Muslims.
I call bullshit.
He ain't motivated by fear of Islam taking over America an enforcing sharia law.
He ain't motivated by hate of the people who attacked the WTC and the Pentagon.
He ain't motivated by some twisted dominionist reading of scripture.
He sure as hell ain't motivated by some sense of divine mission.
No... Terry Jones is motivated by money.
The religion gig? That's just the first level in this con artist's layer cake. The book burning event is merely a marketing ploy to support his money machine. Sounds harsh? Let me show you what a multi-million dollar money laundering operation looks like, complete with shell corporations.
Money laundering is nothing more than a way of obscuring the source of your income. It breaks down into three stages:
- Placement: Dirty money (almost always as cash) is inserted into a legitimate operation.
- Layering: Money is transferred through a variety of businesses (often across borders) to make it as difficult to trace as possible.
- Integration: The money re-enters the mainstream economy in some legitimate form. For example, as a real estate transaction.
This is where you say, "Wait a second. He doesn't need to launder anything. The guy is running a church and some associated charities. It's all tax-free."
And that's where I say, "Oh no it's not."
People have used the power of religion to con other people in civilizations around the world throughout the centuries. I'm not saying religion is a con. I'm saying it is a powerful tool that can be used to con people if you are so inclined. Professional con artists know this all too well. Whole books have been written on the psychology of con games that use religion as bait. Religion as a con game didn't start with Elmer Gantry.
Most con games -- even the religious variety -- are strictly cash and carry operations. Fleece the mark and move on. But if you want to set this up as an ongoing proposition, you need a credible cover story and you need a way to clean up the money trail. Terry and Sylvia Jones are experts at working this angle.
Let's look at Terry and Sylvia Jones of Gainesville, FL. Everyone knows Terry D. Jones is the pastor at the Dove World Outreach Center. Sylvia, his wife, is also a senior pastor at the same church. (Archive link here if current web site is unavailable.) Let's look at some other businesses located at 5805 Northwest 37th Street, Gainesville, FL 32653.
In addition to that duly registered religious institution we find the following -- for profit entities:
It's not just the same address. It's the same phone number. Three guesses what the T and S in TSC refer to. Here's a hint Terry and Sylvia are the owners of this company that "specializes in transporting vintage furniture throughout the entire Southeast, Gulf Coast, Mid-West and East coast of the United States." That's a lot of area. TSC Moving is a division of TS and Company, LLC. TS and Company, LLC is a for profit venture. What do you think the "TS" in TS and Company, LLC stands for? Here's a hint. Terry and Sylvia are officers in TS and Company, LLC, a company they formed in 2007.
If TSC Moving is a division of TS and Company, LLC, what does the TS and Co. do? Good question:
TS and Company is a Christian company seeking a qualified property manager for rental properties in the Phoenix and Pineridge neighborhoods of Gainesville.
That is how they describe themselves in their job listing at the Christian Career Center. That particular listing was for a property manager. The contact information? Same address and phone number as the Dove World Outreach Center.
Interested parties should call 352-372-1702 to state their interest in the position, and then come to 5805 NW 37th, Gainesville, FL 32653 on Thursday, May 13th, at 2pm for an interview. At that time we will discuss all further details of the position and select the most eligible candidate for the job.
Duties would include minor repair and maintenance as well as managing tenants and collecting rent. Compensation will include free rent plus...
So let's recap. So far, we have a nonprofit church, a for profit furniture moving company, a for profit real estate operation that includes rental properties, and a for profit property management operation all operating out of the same location. All owned and operated by Terry and Sylvia Jones.
But wait, there's more. Let's talk about the furniture. Turns out there is also a company selling furniture called TS and Company Design. They advertise, among other places on Do Great Good, offering their services over craigslist.
If you go back to the home page on TSC Moving, you will notice they take Ebay payments. It should come as no surprise TS and Company Design, has a store on Ebay.
Who is TS and Company Design?
Welcome to TS and Company
We are a Christian Company : That is shown in the Business, Mentality, Motivation, Vision and Service of TS & Company.
TS and Company - 5805 NW 37th St. - Gainesville, FL 32653 - email@example.com
That address should be familiar by now. Although they have not been running any operations for the last several months, they do have a feedback score of 9264. That means that at least 9,264 people have done business with them on ebay and left positive feedback. That's a lot of transactions. All of them for furniture. That's a lot of furniture. We'll talk about where the furniture comes from in a minute, but let's look at what TS and Company Design says on its ebay page about their operation:
We are a Christian company: That is shown in the Business, Mentality, Motivation, Vision and Service of TS & Company. For example, our earnings are used to support Christian Organizations such as the Lisa Jones House in Gainesville, Florida, which helps those in need with things like bread, clothing, food, and furniture. For more information, please visit the Lisa Jones House at www.lisajoneshouse.com
Ah... this sounds like we are dealing with a revenue arm of a nonprofit doesn't it? Read that blurb again, and you will see the sweet ambiguity... "our earnings are used to support Christian Organizations such as the Lisa Jones House in Gainesville, Florida" ... They are not saying they support the Lisa Jones House, they support Christian Organizations that include Lisa Jones House. They are not supporting Christian churches. They are supporting Christian organizations. TSC Moving is "a Christian company" that specializes in moving furniture. How much you want to bet, TS and Company Design supports TSC Moving, a subsidiary of TS and Company, LLC?
Now lest anyone think I am casting aspersions on the work of Lisa Jones House, I am not. For the record, it is located at....wait for it...
5805 NW 37th St
Gainesville, FL 32653
Although they are prominently displayed on the Dove World Outreach site, they do have a different phone number. (Archived link is here if current web site is down.) There are two components of the Lisa Jones House that need to be separated. First is their primary mission:
The Lisa Jones House reaches out to hundreds of people each week offering free food and clothing to everyone in the community to has a need.
Second is their way of supporting this charitable operation:
We accept Donations of furniture and household goods which are sold inexpensively or given away as there is a need. We offer free pick-up for donations.
Free furniture which they sell or give away. How much you want to bet some of that furniture is being sold on ebay by TS and Company Design? How much you want to bet some of that furniture is being transported by TSC Moving, a subsidiary of TS and Company,LLC?
So far, that sounds like a perfectly legit operation. At worst, someone is sloppy in commingling resources because they have a shoestring operation. Except we have at least one ebay store with almost 10,000 transactions. And a rental operation with multiple properties. How much are the properties worth? Well, one property currently on sale is located at 5805 37th Street, Gainesville, FL. The asking price? $2,900,000. This commercial property is zoned for multifamily use and in addition to the 17,200 sq foot building, there is also 20 acres of land in the parcel.
Why is this up for sale? The answer may be found in this piece of local news,
Papers mailed to the church from RBC bank state due to the center's financial situation, they no longer want them as a client.
The accompanying TV video shows a shot of the letter wherein RBC calls in their loans with this opening paragraph:
This is to inform you we would like to exit the banking relationship with Dove Charimatic Ministries, Inc., and TS and Co. Dove Charismatic Ministries, Inc.[emphasis added] Due to the material adverse change in your financial condition, we are asking that you move your entire financial relationship to another institution.
Wow. A church worth millions of dollars is being used as a headquarters for operating multiple businesses that do thousands of transactions across large regions of the United States and the bank is all of a sudden threatening legal action to collect on collateralized loans? Maybe the "adverse change" in financial situation is they have jeopardized their tax-exempt status by commingling their operations with for profit operations. How could that happen with a church that has been around decades?
Because Terry and Sylvia weren't running this church until recently. Talk to Action, a site dedicated to monitoring the rise of the dominionist movement, recently researched Terry and Sylvia since they first made headlines with their "Islam is of the Devil" campaign.
Before taking up the leadership of the Dove World Outreach Center(DWOC) in 2007, Jones ran the Christliche Gemeinde Köln (Cologne Christian Church, also known as the "Evangelical Christian Church"), which he had founded in 1983. However, he also had long-standing links with DWOC's founder, Donald Northrup. According to a memoir by Northrup's widow Dolores (who has a website here, and whose book is on Google Books), both Northrup and Jones were involved with Maranatha Ministries, which collapsed in 1989 amid allegations of authoritarianism and abuse.
Maranatha decided to establish its HQ in Gainesville, and Dolores writes that she and her husband came to the town at Maranatha's request. Jones, meanwhile, was sent to Germany to create a Maranatha branch there. As last year's profile of Jones in the Gainesville Sun shows, accusations of authoritarianism have dogged Jones both in Germany and at the DWOC.
What happened in Germany? According to an interview in The Voice, a dominionist magazine, Jones claims he went there because he had a vision from God to "Go to Germany. Go and build My church." He went there to build an apostolic church, the mission of which he describes as
The nature of the apostolic church is to take back, to build up, to destroy. The nature of the apostolic church is to restore the Kingdom of God. Because of that nature, as a whole, the apostolic church, I believe, is not very welcomed.
He is right about not being welcomed in Germany. However, it had nothing to do with his religious beliefs. As Mohammad Abassi notes in his story:
When the Germans invited the Joneses to leave their country it had more to do with things like "tax evasion," disregard for child labor laws, misuse of church funds, charges of cultism, and lying about the largely decorative use of the "Dr." prefix that Jones appends to his name and which Germans take rather seriously (and for which he ultimately paid a fine of €3000).
Jones was kicked out of Germany, and things quickly fell apart after he departed. Abbasi goes on to note:
In case anyone finds those rumors hyberbolic or unsubstantiated, Emma Jones, Dr. Terry’s estranged daughter is happy to corroborate and expand upon the sins of the father. Actually, it’s pretty evident from the attention that Jones is getting here in the US, lately, that he has simply moved his religion-for-profit business to Gainesville, FL
That brings us back full circle. What sort of operations was he running in Germany? The same one he is running in Florida. According to a report in the Gainesville Sun,
Former church members who have worshiped under senior pastors Terry and Sylvia Jones are speaking out about what they describe as financial abuses at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville and its sister church in Cologne, Germany, founded by Terry Jones in 1981 and closed in 2008.
The paper says that by all accounts - the church's Web site, interviews with current and former members and Terry Jones' own description - the church in Gainesville, as was the one in Germany, is structured with a for-profit business operating out of tax-exempt church property, using the unpaid labor of church members to maintain a steady stream of merchandise for sale online.
That structure has raised questions with the Alachua County Property Appraiser's Office, which has said it will investigate the church's tax-exempt status. The value of the land and buildings located at the Dove World Outreach Center, 5805 N.W. 37th St., is assessed at $1.6 million and is wholly exempt from taxes.
Interestingly, entwined with the church's message is a theme stressing obedience to senior pastors and work for the Kingdom of God - a theme that persuaded one couple from Germany to work full time and uncompensated for Terry and Sylvia Jones' business, TS and Company. The business sells vintage furniture on eBay.
Let's look at that furniture for a second. In one interview, Jones explained they set up the moving company because they were "blessed" with more furniture than they can handle. That's fine, except TS and Co. designs is selling vintage "mid century" furniture on ebay.
For the folks who collect furniture, you know "mid century" furniture is a special category. This is the wood and metal work characteristic of designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi, Eero Saarinen, George Nelson, and others. This was the distinctive "Moderne" style from the late 50s to the early 60s. If you want a peek at it, look at the office designed for Roger Sterling in AMC's TV show "Mad Men", that is almost all Saarinen's stuff.
People are donating too much mid century furniture? Where is this coming from? Germany? Florida? One thing is certain. At least some furniture is coming from Sweden. According to this transaction, Terry D. Jones of .... 5805 Nw 37th St Gainesville Fl 32653... has been doing business with Bukowskis Ab of Sweden. The commodity? Furniture. Transshipped from Bremerhaven Germany to Charleston South Carolina. This is just one of three transactions I found for furniture with that company with Jones since they arrived in the US. Bukowskis, by the way, is an auction house. The guy is buying stuff abroad in places like Sweden, transshipping through Germany, picking it up in South Carolina and then selling it on ebay. No problem, except the reason they created TSC Moving was to handle DONATED furniture ... remember?
What we have is
- a couple who take in money for allegedly religious purposes (placement) and
- shuffle it around through multiple businesses across state lines and even internationally (layering).
- The money then comes back in through a variety of channels managed by for profit corporations that are subsidiaries of an LLC owned and operated by Terry and Sylvia (integration).
- The profits are turned into multiple real estate holdings of considerable value (payday).
You have to admire this operation. None of the holdings are in their names. The corporations they control own the properties. They have effectively used the corporate structures to insulate themselves from any claims. But they are in a position to derive all the benefits. The next installment, Keeping up with the Joneses: Koran burning con artists looks at how they have been financing their operation.
Here's where I think this is headed. I think these grifters are getting ready to blow town. They have all but shut down their online operations. They are trying to sell their major real estate asset. They are simultaneously trying to provoke a major media event that will put them in conflict with local government, who has expressly forbid them from having their bookburning. I fully expect they will go ahead with their shindig and when the hammer comes down, they will cry "persecution" and flee... taking as much money as they can so they can "start over anew in more hospitable environs"... while leaving his fleeced flock of faithful holding the bag.
Elmer Gantry would be proud.