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Church member sentenced for defrauding elderly Christians

The Nashville Tennessean reports today:

William Walter Spencer (Photo via www.tennessean.com)

A federal judge on Monday sentenced William Walter Spencer, 68, to six and a half years in prison for an investment fraud scheme that targeted elderly members of his church, Fourth Avenue Church of Christ in Franklin.
One victim in the crowded courtroom said he had lost his entire savings of $15,000 and one woman said she could no longer afford to buy clothes for her grandchildren in the thrift store or buy medicine, according to assistant U.S. attorney John Webb.
“These were not the kind of people who could afford this,” Webb said of the victims.
Spencer, a financial adviser, had faced six counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud in an alleged Ponzi scheme involving 100 investors and $1.45 million, according to earlier court filings.
Spencer worked for several legitimate investment firms as a broker over the years, including Wiley Brothers-Aintree Capital in Nashville, which fired him in 2008.
Separately from his work with the firms, he was taking personal loans from many elderly investors, mostly of modest means, whom he met through church in Franklin and through charity work such as mission trips to Honduras, according to victims and securities regulators.

Read the full story.

  • Feedback
    It’s a shame that the worldy media aren’t the only ones targeting bad works of Christians. We have a huge fight on our hands trying to get the GOOD news out – these types of stories will be well bandied about by the worldly media without the brotherhood joining the “smear” campaign.
    Yes, these things WILL happen – as Jesus said in the parable of the wheat and tares. But joining the propaganda war with the world will not help in our war with Satan.
    Linda Hoeck
    August, 24 2010

    I respectfully disagree. Paul says that we should expose fruitless deeds of darkness. As a minister and a counselor I have witnessed too many situations where people have severely wounded others by seeking to suppress the illegal or indecent activities of a church member. I do not have the space to visit the number of child molestation cases, rapes, or fraudulant activities that have been perpetrated against vulnerable members of the body of Christ only to have been swept under the rug, “for the sake of the cause”. My cause is not the church. My cause is Jesus Christ. Jesus will take care of his true bride. I don’t recall Nehemiah pulling any punches with the leadership when the poor were being defrauded by the wealthy during those days of the return from exile. We should not be afraid to expose those harmful activities to the light. I believe it is important to do so.
    This is not to say that we should cast the Mr. Spencers of the world into the outer darkness. That is not our job either. I have sympathy for an individual who would make such terrible decisions. I am sure that today is a day of great shame for him and he needs ministry in his life as well. But that ministry must first begin with brokeness which I hope he is experiencing for the sake of his soul and his relationships with others.
    Eric Greer
    August, 24 2010

    I did NOT say we should not allow him to be prosecuted. I said we do not need to advertise to the WORLD the shame of the church. We have enough of THAT in the worldly media.
    It is not possible to say “my cause is not the church” AND say “my cause is Jesus Christ” – for they are one in the same. The church is the Bride of Christ AND His body. It is not possible to care for one without caring for the other. There is a drastic misconception in our society today that we can have Christ WITHOUT the church.
    Didn’t the apostle Paul say “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.”
    We are told how to handle sin in the church – and this includes financial wrong. As I said before; I did NOT say we should cover up his wrong (in fact I believe we cover up too much wrong in the church allowing sin to fester and spread); I simply said a Christian paper is fighting the fight against Satan – and he has enough tools at his disposal without us sharing in the destruction of Christ’s Body.
    Were this a paper only read by members of the Body, I would agree – but this post occurred on my facebook page to be read by many people I am trying to reach for Christ. I don’t think they need to see all our dirty laundry – anymore than I would broadcast to the world if a member of my close family were in trouble. It taints the WHOLE family!
    Linda Hoeck
    August, 25 2010

    It seems that we may just disagree on this point. I would make one last note concerning Christian print media. You and I have probably been reading God’s word for some time. One thing with which you would likely agree is that His word is special. It is the greatest publication (i.e. Christian print media) in the history of the world. Within its pages meant for the consumption of both Christian and non-Christian are some of the most scandalous stories about God’s church (his people). These include the sell-out by our great grandparents, Adam and Eve, the lies of the father of the faithful, Abraham, the adultery and murder perpetrated by King David, the betrayal by Peter, and the murderous Saul of Tarsus.
    Not only does the word include stories of people who sinned and were redeemed. It contains the stories of the unfaithful Kings of Israel and Judah, the shepherds of God’s people, Ananias and Sapphira and Demas. Christian print media has recorded the shortcomings of members of the body of Christ for a long time. And I for one am thankful that it has.
    Respectfully yours,
    Eric Greer
    August, 26 2010

    As a wise person once said, “There may be no rest for the wicked, but there is often arrest.”
    I think it’s good to get the word out that this applies to church members too.
    While Mr. Spencer serves time he can also serve as an example to be avoided.
    August, 26 2010

    To ignore this story is tantamount to sweeping it under the rug. This man used his church connections to enrich himself, so it is a legitimate news story amongst this particular fellowship. The Christian Chronicle is a newspaper that reports what is going on in Churches of Christ and it is doing its job here. Let the agenda-drive “journals” try to ignore or rationalize what this man did. The CC is reporting it and kudos to them for doing so.
    August, 26 2010

    Our Financial Manager is serving 5 years. Bottom line you can trust no one with your money. No one.
    John Jenkins
    August, 26 2010

    When non-Christians read in a Christian publication an article like the one on Mr. Spencer, hopefully they come away with the feeling that we are an open group of people, not a people that denies or hides the truth from even its own group. Since I do not live in TN and have not read about this situation in the media (like the other, wonderful news I read in the CC), I appreciate knowing what is happening with others in the church. Reading a story like this helps us all to be realistic about life, even within the church.
    Janet Cybulski
    August, 26 2010

    It’s unfortunate that Mr. Spencer made the choices that he did. However, Romans 13:1-7 tells us that we should expect governmental punishment for actions that violate the law. What has not been addressed is how, or even if, those who lost life savings will be reimbursed by Mr. Spencer. Somehow we think that five and one-half years in prison will compensate those that were defrauded.
    Mike McBride
    August, 26 2010

    My grandfather many, many years ago used to say when he heard about inhumanity toward someone else, and he was a good man but not a Christian as was my grandmother, “their gonna have to put a lip around hell to keep this guy in”!
    August, 26 2010

    While it “feels” like we should keep these kinds of misdeeds quiet, that only gives fuel to those that are trying to destroy the Lords Church. We are not parading these people to destroy the Church, rather we are exposing the deeds done in secret.
    Look at what happened with all the Roman Catholic priests, and the attept to hide EVERY incident that occured. We can expect the same kind of attacks if we try to hide, or ignore, these criminals.
    Additionally, there is the fear of exposure that may help to disuade some people if they know they will be shown in a national newspaper. While every incident I hear of hurts, it make me proud that our brethren are not ignoring the bad amongst us.
    Thank you to the CC Editors and staff for all the hard work they do. And more importantly, the encouragement we get from knowing that this type of story is NOT the norm, rather it is all the uplifting information we get nearly every day through E-mail.
    It is my prayer that this brother, who has fallen away, return to the “straight and narrow”. Maybe he will put his time to good use, and be able to start teaching others about our Lord. He can also start to repay all those he has stolen from.
    Paul Johnson
    August, 26 2010

    “A Federal judge on Monday sentenced William Walter Spencer . . .”
    My concern is: “What did the shepherds of the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ do about, and for, William Walter Spencer, the sinning sheep?”
    Or, maybe William Walter Spencer was not a member of the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ, but was a partner with the church, at least in the Honduras work.
    For the “cause” of Christ and in relation to Him, should not a member of Christ be lovingly disciplined by caring elders and the body of Christ?
    Aaron Herren
    August, 26 2010

    This is not easy to tolerate,but we still love him because Christ love us first and give his live for us(Sinners) We are sinners Rm 3:23, i says the church can handle it, i disagree with sending him to prison, We have to pardon him. if we don’t pardon ourselves, Christ wouldn’t Pardon us. We don’t have to deliver our Church to the World, because we are not of the World.We can leave the Judgement to christ
    John Thabach
    August, 27 2010

    It is a shame went the world gets into brothern and they act like satan decieving and being decieved, But my question is, if this man ask for forgiveness would the most harm of his victtoms or any of them forgive HIm? What is our heart, the real story is where is his heart now and where are our hearts now? we are theonly army in the world that shoots our own wounded, (I do not know this man or where his hear is, But) What would you do if you were his victim? Yet are our sins any less? before you answer this remember God knows your heart, and as you would forgive this man of his evil sin, which makes him evil, so will God forgive you.
    August, 29 2010

    I agree with Aaron. Nothing is said in the brotherhood paper (as was said in the Bible when people of God sinned) about the discipline given by the church. Without this, it does not shed a good light on our Body.
    If simply advertising guilt does so much good, I suggest the next time ANY ONE of us does something wrong (or even better, the next time one of our CHILDREN does something wrong) we should print a flyer and distribute it over our city. After all, we don’t want to “sweep it under the rug!”
    Where do we draw the line between “gossip” – which is defined as “Rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature;” and “exposing deeds of darkness?” Didn’t Paul tell us that to expose deeds of darkness we should disfellowship a person-with hope that in so doing he would be shamed and his soul would be saved-and if he does not repent the world will KNOW he is not part of us?
    Linda Hoeck
    August, 30 2010

    Okay … But without even an explanation …?
    September, 5 2010

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