Law enforcement officials have arrested a man they believe to be responsible for defrauding several churches in Van Buren and Stone County as well as churches in the Greenbrier and Quitman area of Faulkner County.
According to a police report, Kenneth Monk, 32, of Alabama, was arrested on Jan. 16, after members of a church in Van Buren County called to report that a man to whom they had previously given money had come back asking for more money. After giving Monk money the first time he asked for assistance, the church members were advised that he had received money from other churches in the area. Investigators noticed a common theme from members of the churches Monk visited, and the report of the investigation indicates that Monk would attend a church service at various churches, then seek prayer at the altar. Following time in prayer, Monk would ask that a “love offering” be taken to help him as he had to travel back to Alabama to help his wife and young son who had been hurt in an automobile accident. This pattern was repeated in various churches. Monk was charged with six counts of theft by deception for taking money from the churches under false pretenses.
When arrested, Monk admitted to investigators that he has been divorced for the past three years and that his children had never been hurt.
Cody Hiland, prosecuting attorney for the Twentieth Judicial District, said that while evidence against Monk is being gathered, he is encouraging any churches in the area that may have helped Monk or had any dealings with him to contact their local law enforcement office or his office. He also said that he believes the situation is unfortunate because it may hinder churches from helping others in the future.
“Sadly, we believe that Mr. Monk’s entire story was fabricated to take advantage of Christian charity and compassion, which is a hallmark of congregations in our community,” he said. “Anytime someone targets a church with false stories, they risk undermining the efforts of congregations by introducing a form of cynicism to church members that is counter productive to the service of those truly in need.”
While Monk’s actions may be immoral to some, in the eyes of the law, he only faces misdemeanor charges due to legislation (Act 570) that changed the criteria needed to be met before someone can be charged with a felony for theft of property. Hiland said that he does believe the change is one that will benefit the community.
“Act 570 increased the threshold amount for theft of property to be charged as a felony from $500 to $1,000,” he explained. “I’m a firm believer that crime increases when the cost of committing a crime comes too cheap for the criminal. Unfortunately, Act 570, by increasing the threshold level of money it takes to reach a felony level, has put out a ‘blue-light special’ on theft of property in this state. This is a disservice to our people because it makes them less safe.”
To report any information on this case, contact local law enforcement officials or contact Hiland’s office at (501) 450-4927.
(Candie Beck is a staff writer and can be reached at 505-1238 or at email@example.com)