Churches caught in holiday scam - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Churches caught in holiday scam

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

A man visited local churches seeking monetary help stating he needed at least $280 to move his family from Colorado to Lake Charles.

Pastor Wayne McEntire of First Baptist Westlake said the man was legitimate and spoke eloquently.

"He recited scripture and said he was newly converted," McEntire said.

The man, 47-year-old Steven Brown, told McEntire he was a pilot for a major oil company and was relocating to Lake Charles. He said his wife inherited her grandmother's home in Westlake, just a few miles away from the church.

McEntire said Brown wanted to become a member of First Baptist Westlake as soon as he moves to the area.

"He said he needed $280, so I gave him $280," McEntire said.

The same story was given to Pastor Theron Watson from Boulevard Baptist Church in Lake Charles.

"He said he was a converted Jew," Watson said. "He even spoke Hebrew phrases that I recognized."

The only difference in the story was that Brown said his wife was inheriting a house in Lake Charles and that he would join Boulevard Baptist church.

Pastor Watson said he gave Brown $400, much more than what he was asking for.

"He was very believable," Watson said.

Brown told both pastors he would reimburse them as soon as he settled into the new home, but Brown wouldn't respond to any phone calls from the pastors.

"He was slick. Very smooth," Watson said.

Both pastors said the man dressed professionally and had an answer for everything. Brown even said he needed the money to help purchase a prescription for his son's asthma.

The man also stopped at Trinity Baptist asking for money. Senior Pastor Steve James said the man came by with the same story.

Pastor James said he was very believable, but he knew something wasn't right when Brown mentioned he worked for an oil company who wouldn't help with moving costs.

"It was a red flag," James said.

Steve Brown is still on the loose. He's a white male, about 6'3'' and 300 pounds, according to Watson. If anyone knows of his whereabouts, contact law enforcement.

All rights reserved. KPLC 2011.

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