A small congregation is without a church and is missing nearly $10,000 worth of donations. And, once again, an embattled minister is being blamed for false promises and missing cash.
The Rev. Jorge Primero's living room now doubles as a place of worship for his congregation, because the church space he was promised is gone, as are several thousands of dollars in donations.
"The big question for everybody is, 'Where did the money go?'" Primero said.
Many in Middle Tennessee, like Primero, are asking those questions about Pastor Mike Whitsey.
The Channel 4 I-Team has been investigating Whitsey since the summer, when we uncovered that he knew his church was in bankruptcy, never told his congregation and continued to ask for thousands in donations.
When the congregation of Abundant Life Christian Church arrived to worship on Sunday, July 15, they found the doors locked.
Last month, Whitsey was indicted on federal money laundering charges, accused of hiding the proceeds from selling more than $200,000 worth of narcotics.
"It shocked my life and my family. Everyone said, 'Wow, what happened with this?'" Primero said.
Primero said Whitsey agreed in February to let Primero and his 30-member congregation start up a Hispanic ministry inside the Abundant Life Church.
Records show Primero's congregation gave Whitsey and the Abundant Life Church nearly $10,000 in monthly rent, and Primero said Whitsey informed him that the church would be paid off by the end of this year.
"When I found out that the church was closed, I talked with my wife, and she was hurt with all that. My family was hurt. I am, too," Primero said.
Primero then asked Whitsey for answers.
"I said, 'Where did all the money go? We give the money to you,'" Primero said. "He didn't give me an answer. All he told me was, 'The lawyer, the lawyer.'"
It remains unclear what that response from Whitsey meant.
But Primero is not suing. This man of God is praying.
"We're not concerned about the money. Right now, I pray for him. Maybe he will restore his life and restore the church," Primero said.
Primero said he hopes someone will see his story and offer up a place for his congregation to worship, rather than in his own living room.
As for Whitsey, the I-Team contacted him for comment, but he has not returned our call.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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