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Abyssinian Baptist Church Deacon Accused of Defrauding Fellow Church Members

A Deacon at one of New York’s most prominent Black churches, Abyssinian Baptist Church, has been accused of defrauding parishioners and a legalcomplaint has been filed centering on the Deacon’s “actions of targeting and convincing unsuspecting parishioners of the Abyssinian Baptist Church to employ him (as) a general home improvement contractor so that he can abscond with their money.”

Abyssinian Baptist Church Deacon Jerome Yeiser is facing numerous accusations of absconding with more than $200,000 dollars from several active church members, in alleged acts of fraud dating back at least six years, reportedly using the funds to pay for a personal trip, his daughter’s law school tuition, and an IRS tax lien.

This month Abyssinian Church members John and Cheryl Graves, and Tommie and Mara Porter have filed separate claims against Yeiser, detailing the near-identical allegations. In both cases Yeiser fraudulently claimed to be a licensed contractor and used his status at the church to secure renovation bids from the couples. In the court filings, both couples claim that Yeiser soon stopped paying subcontractors for the work and absconded with significant amounts of money. In the Graves’ filing, they claim Yeiser told them that he’d used the money to pay for a church trip, and for his daughter’s school tuition. In the Porter’s filing, they claim Yeiser told them he’d used their money to pay for an IRS tax lien. These allegations depict a pattern of affinity fraud, whereby an individual preys on members of a religious organization, ethnic community or professional group by exploiting their friendship and trust.

When the Graves reported the alleged malfeasance to Rev. Butts in 2014, they were shocked to learn they were not the first family to come forward. When the Porters reported their claim to Rev. Butts in 2019, he informed them that they were the third family to come forward, later admitting they were actually the fifth. 

Yeiser has been temporarily suspended from his leadership duties pending an investigation, however he has not been permanently removed from his position more than a year since the most recent allegations came to light.

Public records reveal that over the past two decades, Jerome and Avis Yeiser have faced extensive lawsuits and prosecutions, reflecting a sustained pattern of extreme financial malfeasance. This includes more than $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, resulting in both parties pleading guilty.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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