Letter: Wayne Jolley Ministries, Inc. violated state law - WSMV Channel 4

Letter: Wayne Jolley Ministries, Inc. violated state law

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Wayne Jolley's congregation met at his home every Saturday. (WSMV) Wayne Jolley's congregation met at his home every Saturday. (WSMV)
FRANKLIN, TN (WSMV) -

A religious nonprofit at the center of a Channel 4 I-Team investigation is facing a civil penalty and must register with the Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports and Gaming, according to a letter from the Secretary of State’s Office.

The letter indicates Wayne Jolley Ministries, Inc. violated state law by “utilizing unfair, false, misleading or deceptive acts and practices affecting the conduct of solicitations for contributions.”

The division’s director, Brent Culberson, imposed a civil penalty of $5,000.

But former members of the Franklin-based ministry said the fine is not nearly enough.

“It took too long and I don’t think it’s enough,” said Mike Pugh, who attended services at the ministry for several years.

Mike Pugh and his wife, Debbie, said they gave more than $100,000 to Wayne Jolley, the pastor who led the ministry’s fellowship, the Gathering International.

But the I-Team and several complaints filed with the Secretary of State’s Office raised questions about how that money was being spent.

“I feel like he just conned us,” Pugh said.

The Pughs said they gave money under the assumption they were funding a worldwide radio ministry—a program that reportedly reached 4.5 billion souls in 107 countries.

But neither the I-Team nor several formal members found any evidence the broadcast ever existed.

What we did find is detailed in tax filings. Records show the ministry acquired hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets, including cabinets, flooring, an elevator and even a $267,000 motor home.

Services take place out of a $1 million home in Franklin where Jolley lived with his wife, Linda, and an assistant.

The Pughs said the more they tithed, the more improvements they noticed within the Jolley home.

In Tennessee, “bona fide” religious groups that collect charitable donations don’t need to register with the state.

But in the letter from Culberson, the Division determined Wayne Jolley Ministries, Inc. does not qualify as a “bona fide” religious institution.

That means it must register under the Tennessee Charitable Solicitations Act or face even more civil penalties.

Mike Pugh wonders why the ministry is only facing one.

“He’s taken in millions, and then to be fined $5,000 is like a hamburger to him,” he said.

Jolley passed away in April due to health complications.

The latest tax filings list only one other board member besides Wayne Jolley: his wife. The website for the organization is still online, but listed phone numbers no longer work.

In a formal response, attorney Gary Henry argued Wayne Jolley Ministries is an “active ecclesiastical church and a physical place of worship in Tennessee where nonprofit religious services and activities are regularly conducted.”

Henry requested a contested case on the assessment of a civil penalty and the determination that Jolley Ministries is not a “bona fide religious institution” under state law.

A hearing has not been scheduled at this time, according to a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office.

Debbie Pugh said she hopes the state pursues this matter.

“They do need to be penalized for what they’ve done to people,” she said.

The I-Team reached out to Linda Jolley and her assistant, Linda Chapman, but did not hear back by deadline.

Calls to Henry’s office were also not returned by deadline.

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