An Alabama newspaper broke the story yesterday about a massive fraud scheme perpetrated by a man named Gray Harvey. It seems that Mr. Harvey filled out fraudulent insurance documents and has swindled home and business owners along the coast out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The company that employeed Harvey, Starfish Insurance Agency, is owned and operated by Pamela Wynona Schoen. Pamela grew up a Southern Baptist, has her mom working the front desk of the office, and simply hired Gray Harvey to help her do some book keeping at the growing insurance business. The fraudulent activities of Mr. Harvey were unknown to the owner of Starfish Insurance and were only recently uncovered. When police went to question Harvey, they discovered he had fled the condominium he lived in at Orange Beach. Pamela Schoen is now having to make good on the money swindled by Harvey by repaying all her customers the money that Harvey took for himself. The loss is $400,000 in cash and growing.
What is even more bizarre is the possibility, according to Pamela's mother, that Gray Harvey may have been attempting to poison Pamela last summer by using arsenic he mixed in his boss's coffee and food. Pamela has recovered from her serious illness, and it was only after the discovery of Harvey Gray's enormous fraud that she and her mother began to put two and two together and have begun asking questions about Gray's involvement in Pamela's mysterious illness.
Gray Harvey Could Have Been Stopped
What really steams me about this sad story is that Gray Harvey could have been stopped before he hurt people on the Gulf Coast. Gray was employeed by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1998 to 2004, and during that time he had embezzled at least $370,000, but in my opinion, closer to $500,000 dollars from the IMB. IMB leadership refused to prosecute Gray Harvey.
Gray was terminated before I became a trustee of the IMB, and I did not participate in any oath of secrecy, as did other trustees. Before I attended my first trustee meeting I had several phone calls and letters about this issue from concerned missionaries. One even drove to Enid to give me documents about the case. At my first trustee meeting I met with trustee leadership and administrative leadership and asked some very tough questions about the handling of the Gray Harvey embezzlement. My main concern was the refusal to prosecute Gray Harvey, as well as the inability of our organization to catch such a massive fraud.
It seems that Gray had used his oversea's appointment at the IMB, an accounting position, to alter and forge documents. He requested fraudulent reimbursement by either adding a zero to the end of an actual invoice or he simply created fraudulent invoices. Bob Allen reports the very strange circumstances under which Gray was caught in his fraud at the IMB; an IMB employee requested to ride in the elevator for which payment had been sent to Gray Harvey, only to discover there was never any elevated put in the building where Gray worked.
I was told there were three reasons Gray would not be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. First, it would possibly compromise our missionaries if prosecution occurred in the country where Gray lived when he took Lottie Moon and Cooperative Program monies. Second, we were about to begin the 2005 Lottie Moon emphasis, and negative publicity would hurt the offering. And, finally, an agreement had been reached that Gray Harvey would repay the IMB.
I tried to point out that trusting the word of a man who took my church widows' offerings to Lottie Moon and the Cooperative Program was not particularly smart. Further, I pointed out that if Gray Harvey were not prosecuted and jailed, he could possibly hurt others in the future. I closed my arguments for prosecuting Gray Harvey to the fullest extent of the law by reminding trustee and administrative leadership of the old SBC axiom that arose during a similar embezzlement at the Home Mission Board during the 1930's - "Tell the truth and trust the people."
Unfortunately, my counsel was not taken by trustee leadership. In fact, this was the beginning of a rocky relationship with several of my fellow trustees, including the Chairman of the Finance Committee, A.C. Halsell, who advocated we keep everything hush hush. Gray Harvey defaulted on his payments to the IMB shortly after he began them, as I knew he would, and the IMB then sought a court judgment against him in Richmond to pay what he pledged he would. The courts approved the judgment and ordered Gray Harvey to pay. Um hum. Good luck.
I am positive that Pamela Schoen, the employees of the Starfish Insurance Agency she operates, and the homeowners along along the Gulf who have been swindled out of their money wish the IMB had prosecuted Gray. He would not have been free to perpetrate his massive fraud. We at the Southern Baptist Convention better learn a hard lesson from this; it is never good to do any business of the SBC behind closed doors - period.
If there is any good news, it might be that Gray Harvey was baptized in a Baptist church and never prayed in a private prayer language. (The preceding sentence will only be understood by some Southern Baptists and all IMB trustees).
Shame on us that he's not in jail.
In His Grace,