UPDATE 05-17-2011 at 11:40pm by Jerry Askin
Janie and Harold Thurmond were planning to take a missionary trip with 20 other members from their church last July 2010, but days before their departure, they found out their trip was off.
"We were going to Galapagos Island on a missions trip and I called American Airlines to check on the tickets and was told we did not have tickets," says Janie Thurmond.
Authorities say 70-year-old Charles McComas who owned a South Florida travel agency used more than $27,000 from the Medart Assembly of God Church for general business purposes and a potential sale of the travel agency that he said fell through.
"We could not believe it, I could not believe it," says Janie Thurmond.
The Thurmond's say the church had been planning the missions trip for months and while they're veteran missionary goers, others would have been missionaries for the first time.
"This man just took advantage of his position and took our money," says Harold Thurmond.
WCTV stopped by the church today just to get reaction from the pastor, he declined to comment.
Even some residents can't believe someone would steal funds from a church.
"They had a mission to go over and help others, and to see all their hard work plunged and taken away from them is very sad," says Wakulla County resident Andrea Kindell.
"Taking away from the people that care and wanna do the right thing, it's atrocious," says Renee Calhoun of Wakulla.
The Thurmond's say the pastor has gotten many donations and has given many of the church members the money they lost from that missions trip. McComas is now being held in the Dade County jail. charged with grand theft over $20,000. He is expected to be transported to the Wakulla County Jail, although it's unknown exactly when.
Crawfordville, Florida - May 17, 2011 -
Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office investigators arrested a 70-year-old Coral Gables man in connection with a fraud involving a Medart church and $27,344 invested in a missionary trip that church parishioners never took to the Galapagos Islands off Equator.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agent arrested McComas Tuesday, May 17 in Miami and transported him to jail in Dade County where he will be held pending extradition or posting of bond.
Charles Bowman “Bo” McComas was charged with grand theft, over $20,000 under $100,000, in the case. He was arrested in South Florida and is expected to be transported to the Wakulla County Jail.
Twenty-two members of the Medart Assembly of God Church began planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands in 2010. Pastor Jeff McFalls contacted the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office in January 2011 and filed a complaint against McComas and World Mission Tours in Dade County.
The church pastor told investigators that Medart Assembly of God has used the travel agency for 16 years and paid their money for the trip in April and June 2010.
In July 2010, a church member contacted American Airlines and requested to use her frequent flyer mileage for the trip and the airline informed her that they did not have a reservation for the church members.
Detective Drew Vass, Detective Matt Helms and Lt. Sherrell Morrison began a financial investigation and determined that World Mission Tours was purchased by a travel agency in Central Florida which sued World Mission Tours for money it was owed.
A check with American Airlines Corporate Security determined that a down payment on the airline seats was sent to American, but the rest of the payment was not received prior to the ticketing deadline and the reservation down payment of $2,500 was refunded.
Investigators contacted the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) which regulates the sale of airline tickets and discovered that World Mission Tours lost its accreditation prior to the incident due to lack of payment to airlines. The down payment for the seats was made through another travel agency who agreed to work with McComas and take on some of his clients.
During interviews with McComas in Coral Gables, investigators learned that he used the Medart Assembly of God money for general business purposes and a potential sale of the company that he said fell through.
Investigators also determined that the church group paid for $10,000 worth of lumber that was waiting for them on the Galapagos Islands. It is unclear what has happened to the lumber. The church members planned to leave for their trip on July 31, 2011. Deputy Cole Wells and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) also investigated.