Universal Church treasurer faces fraud charges

The New York Post/July 9, 2010

Ten years after a Post expose, the world's largest Pentecostal church has been called to judgement for their allegedly devilish dealings in the city.

Regina DaSilva, the New York treasurer for the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, was hauled to court in handcuffs today to face charges that she repeatedly lied to the Attorney Generals' office and Manhattan judges in securing $22 million in mortgage loans.

The loans, 11 in all, were taken out by DaSilva on behalf of the church on two of the church's properties --- one in Woodside, Queens, and the other in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, prosecutors charge.

Those two churches and a half dozen other branches throughout the city were the subject of a Post probe in 2000, which revealed shady fundraising in which worshippers were urged to turn over their savings to win God's grace.

Now, in their 36-count grand larceny and fraud indictment, prosecutors are charging the church took additional liberties with worshippers.

DaSilva had stated in 2006-2008 filings with both the AG's Charities Bureau and Manhattan Supreme Court judges by claiming that parishioners and church board members had voted, as required, to approve the loans, prosecutors charged.

In fact, these "votes" never happened, assistant district attorney Jonathan Lenzner said in asking successfully that bail on DaSilva be set at $10,000.

DaSilva did not comment as she left the courthouse after entering a not guilty plea in a barely audible whisper.

But her lawyer, Andrew Lankler, insisted in court that DaSilva complied with the majority of requirements for securing the mortgages. "She was not the beneficiary -- rather it was her employer, the Universal Church, which is not charged," Lankler said.

Upon learning of the investigation earlier this year, the church secured mortgage ratification votes from 1,600 parishioners, Lankler said.

DaSilva is due back in court August 15.

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