Cops: Gwinnett pastor charged thousands to disabled man’s credit cards

A new watch.

A girlfriend’s trips to the salon.

New wheels for a friend.

A Snellville pastor has been in jail for more than two months, accused of commandeering a disabled man’s credit cards — and opening new ones — to purchase those luxury items and more.

Police are searching for other possible victims.

Robert Whittaker, the founder and pastor of Be Encouraged Ministries, was charged with exploitation of a disabled adult on Feb. 5. He has remained in the Gwinnett County jail — a place he’s very familiar with — since.

Snellville police Chief Roy Whitehead said that Whittaker’s latest legal troubles began when he “offered to care for” a disabled church member with short-term memory loss while his wife was at work.

“While caring for the man, (Whittaker) convinced (the victim) to open credit cards at various locations and authorize him to make charges on the card,” Whitehead said. “… Whittaker also opened credit cards in the victim’s name authorizing (Whittaker) to sign and make charges.”

Whittakers’ alleged purchases included a new watch, hair appointments for a girlfriend and car repairs and new wheels for a friend.

The alleged victim’s wife reportedly found out after she started getting calls from creditors “wanting payments on accounts she didn’t know they had.”

“She said she contacted Mr. Whittaker by text and told him that she knew he had been spending their money and would have to pay it,” an incident report said. “He said he would in a text back, (but the victim’s wife) hasn’t heard from him since.”

Online records show Whittaker’s most recent arrest was his 12th in Gwinnett County, with prior charges ranging from aggravated assault and drug trafficking to driving without a license. In a video on the Be Encouraged Ministries Facebook page, the pastor talks about growing up in Buffalo, snatching purses and robbing drug dealers.

“Pastor Whittaker was incarcerated for robbing and selling drugs until he decided to change his life and worship GOD,” the Facebook page says. “He is a real dude that doesn’t judge anybody for who they used to be but encourages them for whom they will become.”

Snellville police are asking any other potential victims to come forward. Detectives can be reached at 770-985-3555.

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