Luther Raposo, an ordained minister in the Southern New England Conference assigned to pastor the Taunton and Foxboro churches in the suburbs of Boston, was arrested Tuesday and arraigned Thursday on charges of attempted larceny, identity fraud and document fraud. Detective Thomas Kirrane testified that bank officials at Foxboro Federal Savings had tipped the police to a scam in which at least four people in their 70s and 80s from Michigan, New Mexico and Arkansas gave Raposo their social security numbers and he made online arrangements with the Social Security Administration to have their checks deposited in an account he opened. The senior citizens were told by Raposo that they had won a lottery, according to reports in The Foxboro Reporter and The Sun Chronicle.
Pastor Raposo claims that he is also a victim in the scam and sent $3,500 to a man in Florida, according to the Boston Herald. It is unclear the extent to which the police believe this to be true. “It’s certainly a conspiracy by two or more people,” Kirrane is quoted as stating in The Foxboro Reporter, but the Boston Herald states the “cops don’t buy it” and quotes the detective saying Raposo’s claim is “not credible. He wants you to think he’s cooperating, but he’s really not. He thinks he’s a little smarter than everyone else.”
Evidently Raposo did not use contacts he made through the denomination in the scam. He “allegedly telephoned the victims randomly,” stated the copyrighted story in The Sun Chronicle. He is alleged to have told the victims that they had won a lottery in order to get them to give him information that he could use to divert their Social Security checks.
The police presented evidence that indicates that Raposo has had severe financial difficulties. “He allegedly defaulted on $60,000 in loans he obtained from six different banks in 2010,” The Sun Chronicle reported from police testimony in court. “He has filed for bankruptcy. Raposo told police he sent the money to England to process an estate he inherited.”
Raposo was released on bail and is due back in court on May 1. He is 51 and married, with three children. One child is in college, according to news reports.
Frank Tochterman, president of the Southern New England Conference, told the Boston Herald yesterday that Pastor Raposo has been placed on indefinite paid leave until the charges are dealt with. The conference president also told the newspaper about an “unrelated unusual behavior” and a medical condition. “He’s unable to fulfill his pastoral responsibilities,” the president is quoted. “The family indicates that his medical condition has contributed to his behavior and what he’s being accused of.” Church administrators are routinely advised by legal counsel to be careful not to make direct accusations in situations such as this and not to violate the privacy of the employee involved. “Of course this is embarrassing to the churches in the area, and it’s embarrassing to the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a whole.”
There is no indication that Raposo took money from church members or even approached them for funds, although he evidently has had some fund raising responsibilities in his role as a pastor. The home page of the Foxboro Seventh-day Adventist Church web site says, “We are currently launching another Stewardship Campaign! We are trying to pay the loan off in three years instead of twenty to save as much money as possible. … In total we have commitments of $282,000. This is enough to pay the loan off and start the new Sabbath School rooms we need.”
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