A woman who worked for New Creation Christian Fellowship for decades has been sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing more than $660,000 from the Texas megachurch.
According to the Bexar County, Texas, District Attorney’s office:
Lavelle Wilson pled guilty to theft and misapplication of fiduciary property from New Creation Christian Fellowship on Feb. 4 in the 379th District Court.
At the time the theft was uncovered, Wilson was the executive assistant to Bishop David Copeland. Overall, she had worked for the church for over 30 years. She was in charge of two of the church’s bank accounts.
In 2019, New Creation’s Executive Committee conducted a review of financial reports and expenses. Wilson delayed turning over financial records and it was not until the church obtained the records from the bank that it was discovered that Wilson had been taking money from them as far back as 2014.
“Members give to their church with the best of intentions. In this case, the money that was meant to be used by the church was instead funding this defendant’s lifestyle,” Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said in a press release. “New Creation Christian Fellowship trusted this defendant to help them do some good for our community. Her violation of that trust hurt this community. Now that she has accepted responsibility for her crime, I know the church and its members can focus on their faith and service to our community.”
Ruvader LaVelle Hall Wilson — as a New Creation Christian Fellowship statement referred to her — misappropriated funds not just from the church, but also from two of its ministries, including the David M. Copeland Ministries. Churches usually rely on donations, including tithes and offerings, from its members and supporters to keep the doors open.
Wilson reportedly used the stolen church money “to pay for a trip to Hawaii, shopping sprees, upscale dining experiences, fast food, personal loan payments and cellphone payments,” and other unknown expenses. Her theft totaled $667,542 and she has not replaced any of the stolen money.
The church’s statement revealed that operational changes had been made to protect the organization’s finances due to Wilson’s crimes.
“As Christian ministries, we stand by our principles of honesty, integrity, and compliance with the law,” the statement reads. “We take our responsibility to prudently manage resources seriously.”
The statement was signed by New Creation Christian Fellowship pastors the Rev. Dr. Claudette A. Copeland and Bishop David M. Copeland.
The Copelands expressed remorse over the matter, noting that while it is in the church’s purview to address “sin, immorality and redemption,” it is the law that deals with criminal matters.
“There are some matters that are out of the control of the church,” the Copelands expressed in their statement. “Unfortunately, this is one. As challenging and grievous as this has been for everyone involved, we have been encouraged by the continuing faithfulness of God and the members and partners of this ministry. We do not relish this and we find no joy in it. We encourage everyone to be prayerful and sensitive to all concerned.”
The Copelands officially incorporated New Creation Christian Fellowship in 1985, amid their notable assignments as the first African American chaplain couple in the U.S. Air Force. The church grew under their “progressive leadership,” and eventually acquired its current 2,500-seat worship location in Windcrest, Texas.