NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City minister who was the subject of an Associated Press investigation about misspent 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina charity funds has agreed to repay $1.2 million that he took from his congregation to buy an 18th-century farmhouse on seven acres in rural New Jersey.
The Rev. Carl Keyes and his wife, the Rev. Donna Keyes, who jointly led the Glad Tidings Tabernacle in Manhattan, signed a legal judgment Wednesday settling a probe by the New York attorney general into a series of questionable church financial transactions.
Those deals included an illegal loan the couple took from the church in 2008 to buy a house in Stockton, New Jersey, near the Delaware River, and $500,000 the church loaned to an anti-poverty charity controlled by Carl Keyes, called Aid for the World.
Some of that money, the attorney general's office said, was used to buy the minister and his wife a BMW. According to the settlement, which was scheduled to be officially announced Thursday, other funds were used to finance family trips to California, West Virginia, Africa and Florida, where the couple's sons went to college.
Glad Tidings former executive director, Mark Costantin, agreed to repay $482,000 he still owed Glad Tidings on $1.2 million in loans he'd taken from the church, some of which were used to pay off the mortgage on his house in Chester, New York.
"Carl and Donna Keyes and Mark Costantin abused the trust of their congregants and used Glad Tidings Tabernacle as their personal bank," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. He said the law forbids officers and directors, including ministers, from taking any such loans — "much less loans to finance personal expenses and lifestyle choices."
Three former members of the Glad Tidings' board agreed to pay $50,000 in penalties for neglecting their oversight duties.
The attorney general's office began its investigation after the AP raised numerous questions about Carl Keyes and two charities he controlled, including one that had received $4.8 million in donations intended to help victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
The AP reported in articles in 2011 and 2012 that Keyes had diverted some of that money into his cash-starved church, then used funds from the church and the nonprofit groups to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal credit card bills and other debts. Keyes used one big donation, meant for his disaster-relief charity, Urban Life Ministries, to clear a mortgage on another New Jersey home.