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Deacon at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church accused of defrauding over $200K from church members

Photo via Wikipedia Commons/DennisInAmsterdam

A Deacon at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem has been accused of defrauding multiple church members out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A lawsuit has been filed against Deacon Jerome Yeiser, who allegedly absconded with more than $200,000 dollars from several active church members in multiple alleged acts of fraud dating back at least six years. Yeiser allegedly used these funds to pay for a personal trip, his daughter’s law school tuition, and an IRS tax lien.

This month, church members John and Cheryl Graves, and Tommie and Mara Porter filed separate claims against Yeiser with very similar allegations. In both cases, Yeiser allegedly claimed to be a licensed contractor and used his status at the church to secure renovation bids from the couples. However, Yeiser allegedly stopped paying the subcontractors and made off with the excess money.

In the Graves’ case, Yeiser allegedly told them that he used the money to pay for a church trip, and for his daughter’s school tuition, while in the Porters’ case, he allegedly said that he used their money to pay a tax lien to the IRS. When the Graves couple originally reported alleged malfeasance to Rev. Calvin Butts in 2014, they were shocked to learn they were not the first family to come forward. In 2019, when the Porters went to Rev. Butts, he initially informed them that they were the third family to come forward, but later admitted they were actually the fifth to come forward. 

Yeiser, who has served in his position for over a year, has been temporarily suspended from his leadership duties pending an investigation. 

Public records indicate that Yeiser and his wife, Avis, faced many past charges of extreme financial malfeasance, including $170,000 in civil judgments, $90,000 in unpaid tax liens, one home foreclosure, three bankruptcy filings, and prosecution on more than a dozen federal criminal charges. The couple pleaded guilty to these charges.

amNewYork Metro has reached out to Abyssinian Baptist Church for comment.

Emily Davenport