INDIANAPOLIS - An Indianapolis pastor was in court Tuesday facing several felony charges after reportedly defrauding local Latino families.
Jorge Lopez Chinchilla is accused of posing as an immigration attorney and accepting money for his services from four families involved in immigration cases.
Lopez has been charged with corrupt business influence, forgery and theft following an investigation that began in September 2012.
According to court documents, three families gave Lopez money to pay bonds for individuals in federal custody.
"He would tell them he can in fact bond them out," said Deputy Prosecutor Daniel Harrison. "They would give him money to bond them out. In every case, he did not bond them out, and took their money. Sometimes he would refund the money, and when refunding that money, keep some of it and give a forged document and say, 'Here is the work I've done for you.'"
A fourth victim reported paying Lopez to intervene in the deportation of her husband. She told investigators her husband was deported three days later and Lopez would not refund her money.
One of his purported victims, Kim Heitzman, said she gave Lopez $490 to get her fiancee, Roger-Lopez Rivera, out of jail. Rivera never got out of jail, and Heitzman said she had to sell her car and lost her apartment because of the money she gave Lopez.
Lopez is also accused of taking money from an undercover officer, who was paying to remove an immigration hold on a person detained in the Marion County Jail. Lopez reportedly told the officer that the individual would be released on bond the following day, but the individual had been moved to a different facility a week earlier.
Iglesia De Cristo Nuevo, where Lopez was reportedly a pastor, is also named in the charges.
Lopez had been staying rent free in a room in the basement of Chapel Rock Christian Church as part of the church's community outreach.
Church elders say the felony charges against their tenant caught them by surprise.
"[It's] totally disappointing," said church administrator Mark Scudder. "He's passing himself off as someone he is not. He's stealing someone's hard-earned money. You look at it from a Christian standpoint: It's not what we're about."
Lopez is accused of meeting his victims at the church to collect the money then depositing it into an account under the church's name.
Chapel Rock says it has not decided if it will continue to allow Lopez's church to use its facilities.
Individuals who believe they may have been victims of similar fraudulent activity by Lopez should contact the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office Director of Latino Affairs, Maria Wildridge, at 317-327-5293.