Two former leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church are facing federal charges in California after allegedly defrauding churches in the amount of $14 million.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Staccato Powell, 62, and Sheila Quintana, 67, have been charged with counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. Powell has also been charged with one count of mail fraud.
Authorities claim from October 2016 to July 2021, Powell and Quintana were managing the congregations’ properties and used them to secure loans to benefit themselves in a scheme.
Prosecutors said in a statement, “The indictment alleges that Powell and Quintana conspired to defraud AME Zion Church congregations in Oakland, San Jose, Palo Alto, and Los Angeles by re-deeding the local congregations’ properties in the name of WED Inc.”
The Rev. Kaloma Smith, pastor at University AME Zion, said, "We are grateful to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for bringing this case forward. We are grateful that somebody heard our cry and started moving on that, and we are grateful for those in the community who knew and supported us."
Powell was arrested on January 25 in Wake Forest, North Carolina and Quintana was arrested that day as well in Vallejo, Calif. They will appear in the Northern District of California via Zoom on February 2, 2022.
They are facing 20 years in prison.
AME Zion Church leaders voted to relieve Powell of his financial and administrative duties on August 7, 2021, the indictment indicates. He was “disrobed” a month previous to that, formally stripping him of his title as bishop.