Deputies: Church members scammed

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Members of a Jackson County church were only trying to help, but investigators said a man and a woman took advantage of it.

Now, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office is searching for that man and woman who investigators said swindled members of the Holly Springs United Methodist Church in Pendergrass.

Jackson County Sheriff Janis Mangum said Patricia Bowie entered the church during service Sunday with a dire message for the congregation.

"She interrupts the preacher while he's preaching and says, 'I'm sorry to interrupt you, but my daughter was killed in an accident, and I don't have money to get to her.'  So, they took an offering up for about $400," said Sheriff Mangum.

Church member Joel Anderson said he was in the church when the woman interrupted the service.

"It took a lot of nerve. I could see her eyes was rolling and I knew something was up. I had the feeling she was not on the up-and-up," said Anderson.

He said he followed the woman outside the church after she had convinced the members to donate the money. Anderson said he wrote down the truck description and tag number.

The Sheriff's Office put out a BOLO - Be On the Look Out - for James David Bowie and his wife Patricia. Deputies said they were seen leaving in a white Ford F-150 with a Georgia tag number of PCI 7832.

Sheriff Mangum said it is not the first time the couple has spun a tale at a church for money.

"I think they are going across the state of Georgia, doing this to different churches," said Sheriff Mangum.

She said she knows of four churches apparently targeted by the couple, three in Jackson County, and one in Lumpkin County. It is unclear how much money in total has been scammed from church members.

The pastor of Holly Springs United Methodist Church, who didn't go on camera, told FOX 5 that Patricia Bowie contacted him with an offer to pay back the money, and an apology.

None the less members of the church gathered Thursday night to vote on whether or not to urge the Sheriff's Office to prosecute the couple on a charge of theft by deception. Church member Shery Tiller and others
gathered were in favor or pressing charges.

"I think they should be (prosecuted) otherwise they're going to try to take advantage of someone else," said Shery Tiller.

The pastor told FOX 5 the congregation did vote to prosecute. He said they forgive the couple, but did not want anybody else to be scammed the way they were.