US Attorney closes case on Word of Faith Fellowship

Citizen Times/September 27, 2019

By Mackenzie Wicker

Asheville, North Carolina -- The federal investigation into the Word of Faith Fellowship is over.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina announced in a Sept. 26 press release that it has concluded its look into the secretive Rutherford County church following the sentencing of the fourth and final congregant who faced federal charges in 2018 in connection with an unemployment benefits scheme.

Diane Mary McKinny, 66, was sentence to three years probation, 10 months of which are to be served in home confinement. She pleaded guilty in May 2019 to one count of making false or fraudulent claims.

The Word of Faith Fellowship, located in Spindale, has faced allegations for decades from various former members who call the church a cult. These allegations include charges of child abuse, systematic separating of families, assault, obstruction of justice and fraud, to name a few.

The U.S. Attorney's Office acknowledged in July 2017 that it had opened a federal criminal investigation into "alleged criminal activities of certain members" of the church. U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray said the office has ended that work "following an exhaustive review and evaluation of all of the available information.”

Four charged through investigation
The investigation netted charges against four congregants. Of those individuals, McKinny is the only one not listed as a pastor or minister on the church's website.

McKinny's co-conspirator, Marion “Kent” Covington, was previously sentenced to 34 months in prison for orchestrating a fraudulent scheme at a plastics manufacturing company, Diverse Corporate Technologies Inc. (DCT), in Rutherford County. He was owner and president of the company. McKinny worked there as a payroll clerk and corporate secretary.

Two others, Dr. Jerry Gross and Jason Lee Gross, received probationary sentences for executing a similar scheme at a podiatry clinic located in Forest City.

As part of her sentence, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger also ordered McKinny to pay $466,960.30 as restitution, jointly with Covington and the Grosses.

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