OLD TOWN, Maine — A local church learned last week that it most likely will never receive the refurbished kitchen equipment it purchased from a Massachusetts man accused of defrauding victims across New England out of $140,000.
The Rev. R. Bruce Stevens, senior pastor of United Baptist Church, 48 Middle St., said Thursday that in March it paid $10,955 to William “Billy” Griffin for refurbished kitchen equipment that was never delivered.
Griffin, 47, of Haverhill, Massachusetts, was arrested Sept. 17 in Massachusetts and charged with nine counts of larceny and one count of misleading a bankruptcy court, according to the Salem News. Bail was set the following day at $500,000 cash.
Stevens said the church learned Sept. 5 that Griffin was under investigation and nearly two weeks later from news reports in Massachusetts that he had been arrested. The pastor said that up until the day before he was arrested, the church was communicating with Griffin, trying to firm up a delivery date.
The minister informed the congregation during Sunday’s service.
“This is not a hardship,” the pastor said Thursday. “We can handle this financially.”
Jordan said that the church is in the midst of a $100,000 two-phase renovation. The first phase involves the lobby of the 45-year-old building and the second, the kitchen.
“One of the men on the committee [overseeing the renovations] had found this individual on Craigslist in Haverhill who advertised that he sold refurbished kitchen equipment,” Jordan said. “We told him that we were not in a hurry so it would be OK to combine the delivery with a couple of other deliveries he said he had in Maine.
“When it came time to deliver, he came up with a lot of excuses about why he couldn’t get here,” the pastor said. “His vehicle had broken down and other things.”
Jordan said he did not know how Griffin’s prices compared to others who sold similar equipment.
“We’re certainly disappointed to find this out,” he said. “We are consulting with our attorney to see what options we have.”
The loss is not covered by the church’s insurance.
Jordan said that members of his congregation are “doing OK” after learning of the alleged fraud.
“We live in a world where broken people lie, steal and cheat and, sometimes, we experience that firsthand,” the pastor said. “We recognize that by living in a fallen and broken world we are going to have suffering, but in the scale of things, this is just money.”
Griffin operated as Rockingham Restaurant Equipment and Supplies in Haverhill, Massachusetts, according to the Salem News. Police told the newspaper that several of Griffin’s alleged victims were immigrants trying to start new lives in the United States.
Jordan said the congregation of about 250 worshippers was seeking forgiveness for the man accused of stealing from them.
“We pray that this man learns a very valuable lesson through the legal process as we look to God to change men’s hearts,” he said. “We pray for justice and that he faces the consequences of his crimes. We can forgive him without excusing him from the consequences of his crimes.”