NORCROSS, Ga. - A Norcross pastor was arrested on multiple felony charges connected to an alleged con job of people seeking legal immigration status, but her daughter disputes those charges.
Adorned with a cross and an unfurled banner, Anointed Vision Church served as a front for fraud and illegal activity, according to Gwinnett County Police. It’s head pastor 60-year-old Melva Washington was arrested at the church Wednesday for allegedly acting as a lawyer and tax preparer to help people seeking legal status.
“We paid for the graduation. We pay for the diploma,” said Felix Rodriguez, who was listed as a victim on a police report.
Rodriguez said he paid nearly $900 for classes at the church to complete his legal paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. He said after Ms. Washington helped him send in the paperwork immigration authorities came calling.
“I got a letter from ICE saying I sent like false information,” said Rodriguez.
He contacted immigration attorney Charles Kuck.
“She actually signed the applications with her name,” said Kuck.
Kuck said he’s working with Gwinnett County Police on tracking down apparently hundreds of victims who also worked with Washington over a few years.
“She’s accused of defrauding at least a thousand immigrants and their families,” said Kuck, explaining the number comes from investigators.
A woman at Anointed Vision Church, who identified herself as Washington’s daughter, said her mother did nothing wrong. She believes the allegations come from people who just couldn’t obtain DACA status. She showed FOX 5 News paperwork pointing to the church as a registered non-profit which she said has afterschool care and works closely with the community. She said her mother was only trying to help people not cheat them.
Gwinnett County Police did not go on camera but indicated more information will be released soon.
Washington’s daughter told FOX 5 News her mother was being held as of Thursday at the Gwinnett County Detention Center without bond.