The Star Fish Insurance Agency in Gulf Shores, Alabama, pictured here, is owned by a former Southern Baptist woman named Pamela Wynona Schoen. I first introduced readers to Pamela in December of 2008, explaining that she had hired, in good faith, a former Southern Baptist missionary named Gray Harvey to be her bookkeeper. Wynona had grown up in a family who regularly gave money to Southern Baptist causes (Lottie Moon, Cooperative Program, etc...). What could be better but to have one of those missionaries as an employee at her office, right?
Wrong. Gray Harvey began to write fraudulent insurance policies on multi-million dollar condominiums and homes in Gulf Shores, Alabama without Wynona Schoen's knowledge. Harvey scammed dozens and dozens of policy holders out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. He wrote what looked like legitimate policies on fake Lloyds of London forms, underbid competitors, and pocketed the premiums--all without his boss's knowledge. Harvey was eventually arrested by federal authorities, and will soon face prosecution by the United States attorney for bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud in stealing all that money from unsuspecting people. Wynona Schoen's lawyer, Richard Lively, recently told the Alabama insurance regulators that his client, was the worst victim of all, suggesting that Benton Gray Harvey may have poisoned Schoen to keep her away from Starfish Insurance Agency as the scam peaked in the summer of 2008.
What makes this story so sad, and why every Southern Baptist should remember Pamela Wynona Schoen, is because Gray Harvey had previously stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board--but IMB executives and trustees did not wish to criminally prosecute him. The IMB had their reasons for not wanting the authorities to press charges against Gray Harvey in 2004. But, in my opinion, the unwillingness of SBC officials to see Gray Harvey prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law directly led to Wynona Schoen's legal, financial and physical problems. Wynona's life, as she once knew it, has been ruined. Had Gray Harvey had his rear sitting in jail, or at least had it been made public that Gray Harvey was a professional thief, he would have never been hired by Pamela Wynona Schoen and been in a position to defraud her and others in his Alabama scam. When a thief changes his environment by moving from one state to another, nothing in the evil nature of that thief changes. As the old-timers used to say, "Unless there is a change in the atmosphere, what thaws in the sun will once again freeze in the shade."
One year ago, in the fall of 2008, after I visited with Pamela Wynona Schoen's very emotional mother over the phone, I made a vow. I promised myself that if I ever came across another individual who exhibited the gall to deceitfully and intentionally steal money from Southern Baptists, I would do everything within my power to ensure that federal authorities prosecute to the fullest extent of the law--regardless of the desires of SBC leaders, whomever they may be, who might wish the problem to go away lest further "embarrassment" come to Southern Baptists. I call it my "Pamela Promise."
And I aim to fulfill it.
In His Grace,