Man charged with defrauding $308K from churches, businesses

A 42-year-old Ohio man has been indicted for allegedly defrauding more than $300,000 from churches and small businesses in Georgia and other states.

Jamal E. Lawson of Dayton faces three counts of wire fraud in an indictment returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Chicago.

Federal prosecutors contend the 42-year-old Lawson told some 20 churches and 13 small businesses that his companies had approved mortgage loans for them, ranging from roughly $300,000 to $206 million, but that he needed advance fees of about $1,250 to $35,000 to cover appraisals and other costs.

Prosecutors say Lawson collected at least $308,000 knowing that he never intended to provide the loans. He's accused of spending the money on travel, clothing, food and cars. The loans totaled at least $537 million.

Three of the victimized churches are in Chicago. The other alleged victims are in Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia. The indictment does not identify the victims or their cities, other than Chicago.

Between June 2009 and December 2010, the indictment says, Lawson offered loans to pastors of churches and owners of small businesses through one of his companies.

Those companies were Evangel Capital Group LLC and Evangel Capital Partners Ltd.; Ascendant Capital Partners LLC and Ascendant Commercial Mortgage; and Destiny Capital Group LLC and Destiny Capital Partners Ltd., according to the indictment.

"In Chicago, he allegedly defrauded one unnamed church of $3,950 in fees for a purported $742,000 mortgage loan; a second church of $4,000 in fees to provide a mortgage loan of $1,546,000; and a third church of $3,950 in fees for a $3,045,000 mortgage loan," according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago.

Wire fraud carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Lawson has an attorney.

-- Dispatch Editor David Ibata and the Associated Press contributed to this article.