The July 4th Knucklehead Marathon Part Eight
Our eigth winner today is Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda. He gets the award for the following.
The Miami-based preacher who has basked in international attention since declaring himself the second coming of Jesus Christ has used charitable donations to his ministry for personal expenses -- paying $144,000 a year in alimony to his first wife and buying property in his and his relatives' names.Just a con artist pretending to be a man of God, or just God. LOL, either way Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda is today's eigth Knucklehead winner of the Day.
Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda disclosed details of the previously secret financial workings of his church through sworn testimony last month in an increasingly nasty divorce from his second wife.
The revelations from the witness stand, which experts say suggest violations of federal law, prompted a Miami-Dade circuit judge to send a transcript to federal prosecutors this month with a letter saying he was ''ethically compelled'' to bring it to their attention. The U.S. attorney in Miami has confirmed opening an investigation.
To add to his earthly tribulations, De Jesus received a letter from the IRS earlier this month informing him that his personal taxes for the past three years will be audited, said JoAnn De Jesus, the preacher's daughter and ministry's finance manager.
Testimony and depositions in the divorce case show that De Jesus has routinely used donations to his ministry's 300 churches worldwide -- from small sums collected from followers in Latin America to $5.5 million from a Colombian benefactor -- to bankroll his personal life.
The once-inconspicuous sect called Growing in Grace, which De Jesus founded 20 years ago, proclaims sin doesn't exist and declared him the Antichrist. Church leaders say it's gaining followers, and that 2007 donations have already exceeded the $2 million raised in 2006.
The details that disturbed Pineiro came to light during the May 16 hearing to set a temporary alimony for De Jesus' second wife, Josefina De Jesus Torres. Among the ''problems'' cited by the judge and gleaned from testimony by De Jesus and JoAnn:
• A Bogotá bank account in De Jesus' name is fed by tithes to the Colombia branch of the church but has paid $4,000 a month in personal living expenses for Torres and her four children from two previous relationships. De Jesus testified he also recently used the account to give Torres $4,800 to furnish an apartment in her native Baranquilla, to buy her a $17,000 Renault and to put up $60,000 for her 12-story condo project in Colombia.
• An apartment in Bogotá was purchased with $117,000 of the ministry's cash but lists De Jesus as the owner.
• A $365,000 house near Houston that De Jesus lives in is titled in his daughter's name, but the $80,000 down payment came from church funds and a gift from a church employee. The church pays the $2,200 monthly mortgage.
• The ministry put a $100,000 deposit on a preconstruction contract for a five-bedroom, $600,000 house in Miramar where De Jesus will live when he's in South Florida. The deal is in JoAnn's name.
• In 2003 and 2004, De Jesus, who also calls himself the Apostle, claimed total losses of $380,699 from a restaurant venture with two church members. But JoAnn testified that her father didn't invest any money in Apo's Cafe in Virginia Gardens, and that his 65 percent share was a gift from his partners.
The business went bust and the church bought the land for $2.9 million from the company from which the cafe's partners had leased it, according to records. The ministry now has a deal to sell the land for $3.8 million, according to testimony and interviews.
''Well, the Apostle takes the loss, but the church takes the profit,'' Pineiro said from the bench. He set temporary support for Torres at $15,000 per month, upping De Jesus' monthly alimony obligations to $27,000.
Growing in Grace vaulted into the international media spotlight during the past two years after De Jesus declared himself the second coming of Jesus. Later, he added the title Antichrist to his portfolio. He and some followers got ''666'' tattoos -- the biblical ``mark of the beast.''
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