Agape chief: I'll pay up

The Advertiser, Australia/August 4, 2010

Runaway Agape Ministries leader Rocco Leo has offered to "refund" a profoundly disabled woman $290,000 as "a sign of good faith".

In documents filed with the District Court, Leo denies defrauding $420,000 from Silvia Melchiorre, saying any monies received from her were a gift. He says he is willing to give her $290,000, even though he is under no legal obligation to do so.

"At all relevant times, Ms Melchiorre represented that the monies provided were donations or gifts for the benefit of Agape Ministries," the document says.

"In a sign of good faith, there will be an offer to refund the $290,000 she donated, without any admission of liability."

Ms Melchiorre and Martin Penney have filed claims against Leo and two senior members of his controversial church - Joe and Mari Antoinette.

They allege they were duped into handing over $1.2 million and $420,000 respectively by claims Earth's population would be impregnated with tiny microchips containing their personal information.

They claim Leo said anyone who refused the chip would be branded terrorists and be gassed or beheaded in government-run concentration camps.

Mr Penney alleges Leo warned that those people who chose to be micro-chipped would also die from slow-release poison hidden within the devices.

Ms Melchiorre claims Leo promised to keep her safe on "The Island", a South Pacific location where he would also heal her.

In his defence documents, Leo denies owing any money to Mr Penney.

He says Mr Penney donated $243,000 to the church - not $1.2 million - and that his "gift" has already been refunded.

Leo also asks the court to lift freezing orders on his assets so that he can make the $290,000 payment to Ms Melchiorre, should she accept it. He further warns some of the properties subject to the freezing order "belong to other people" who will "file claims for damages".

The case returns to court this month.

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