Flood Warning issued May 4 at 2:44PM EDT expiring May 5 at 2:44AM EDT in effect for: Jackson, Lawrence, Washington
A former Indianapolis pastor accused of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars meant to help build a church faced a federal judge on Tuesday.The Rev. Wayne Taft Harris Jr., who pleaded not guilty last week to two counts of wire fraud, declined to comment outside court on Tuesday, 6News' Rafael Sanchez.According to the federal lawsuit, Harris and his nonprofit corporation, known as Kingdom Builders Faith Church Inc., borrowed $482,000 to build a church at 2860 Euclid Ave., but the building was never constructed.Representatives with Teen Missions, the group that provides money to help congregations build places of worship and then uses money made from the loan to feed and clothe the poor in 108 countries, said Harris' church never made a payment on the loan, and that Harris blamed construction delays on city zoning issues.According to court records, Harris misused $144,000 of the loan on Mercedes Benz, a mink coat and a Christian book store that no longer open in the Village Park Plaza in Carmel."It's a scheme to defraud people of money," said U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison. "Any point at which there is substantial money taken by fraud, the government has an interest. And that's our allegation, that this was a fraudulent taking."In recent years, Harris has been associated with ministries in Houston, where the Rev. Mark Downs said he defrauded his church."Wayne Harris is a scoundrel and a crook. He skipped out stealing a great deal of money from my church," Downs said in an e-mail to 6News.Harris is best known as the son of Wayne Harris Sr., a vocal member of the local clergy who died 10 years ago.Harris, who was appointed a public defender, is expected to go to trial on Sept. 7.