ST. FRANCISVILLE — Jurors in the trial of former West Feliciana Parish Police Juror John Cobb heard a recording Wednesday of two hours of intense interrogation by State Police detectives probing Cobb’s alleged involvement in the theft of money from his church.
Cobb, 54, of Weyanoke, is being tried on three counts of felony theft of funds from his church, the Union Bethel Family Church, which was building a new sanctuary in Weyanoke during 2009 and 2010.
During the sometimes raucous back-and-forth between Cobb and the detectives, State Police Sgt. Lance Kennedy is heard urging the former juror to be a man and tell the truth and avoid having his wife and mother-in-law also prosecuted.
“You’re going to jail for $71,030.83. Don’t have a warrant cut on you yet. It will be signed,” Kennedy told Cobb, who repeatedly denied involvement in the alleged misappropriation of funds.
Kennedy said in the May 2010 interview that Cobb’s wife, Carol, and mother-in-law, Louisa Jones, were involved in the theft of $55,120.83. The two women were officers in the church and usually signed checks on its bank accounts.
“The church don’t know nothing about all that money moving around. I can promise you. We have bank documents and everything, and statements from other people throwing you under the bus,” Kennedy told Cobb, who was defeated for re-election last year.
Jones pleaded guilty to felony theft, but the judge deferred her sentence for a year.
The first count of a 2010 indictment against Cobb alleges that he, the Rev. George Veal, of Clinton, and former East Feliciana Parish School Board member Oliver Wingfield, of Jackson, conspired to convert $80,000 in fire insurance money paid to Feliciana Enrichment Center, a now-defunct nonprofit organization operated by Veal and Wingfield, to private hands.
Feliciana Enrichment Center burned in 2008.
Wingfield, 81, who pleaded “no contest” to a felony theft count last year, testified Wednesday the money should have gone to another nonprofit group such as a church rather than to private hands.
Wingfield said Veal instructed him to issue an $80,000 check to Cobb’s church, with the understanding that he and Veal would receive $25,000 each in return.
Kennedy testified that Cobb accepted the nonprofit’s check, then used it to get cashier’s checks for $15,000 and $65,000. He deposited $13,000 into his personal savings account in a credit union and also made a mortgage payment at the same time, the officer said.
The $65,000 check went into the church’s checking accounts, but $50,000 of that amount was used to cover checks written to contractors John Perry and David Deloach, both of East Feliciana Parish, for work supposedly done on the church’s new building.
Perry and Deloach, who entered pleas to theft counts, said they did no work for the $25,000 paid to each of them, and both said they gave the bulk of it to Veal and Wingfield, respectively.
In the end, the church only got $15,000 of the $80,000 transfer, Kennedy said.
Wingfield also testified that after Cobb became aware of the investigation, in December 2009, he met with Veal and Cobb in Weyanoke to discuss the investigation.
He did not disagree with District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla’s description of the meeting as an opportunity “to get your stories straight.”
Cobb also is accused of being paid or reimbursed with church funds in 2009 for a church steeple that another contractor built in early 2010, after the investigation was under way.
The third count charges Cobb with cashing checks written to a laborer but keeping some of the money himself.
The trial continues Thursday with defense testimony, while trials for Cobb’s wife, Carol Cobb, and Veal are pending.
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