Feds: Family-run travel agency stole $1 million from churches
SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - The brother and sister behind a troubled Sandy Springs travel agency have been indicted on federal charges, accused of scamming church groups across the country.
Beth and Andy Greenhill ran Mission Trip Airfare. For years, the company offered religious groups affordable airfare to travel to their mission trips.
But in early 2017, some groups complained the tickets they had paid for months earlier were never delivered. And they couldn't get Mission Trip Airfare to explain why.
The FBI believes at least $1 million may have been stolen from those churches and other religious organizations.
Mark Robinson's Jewish Awareness Ministries in Angier, N.C., is out $71,000.
"This was extremely frustrating," he admitted.
Wayne de Wet's One Plus God Ministries in Marion, Ohio, lost $120,000.
"Because we are Christians, people want to take us at our word," he explained. "And if we say we are going to do something, you know we need to do it."
Beth Greenhill pled not guilty to seven counts of wire fraud. Her brother Andy returned from Europe last month to plead not guilty to the same charges.
“I suspect that the loss amounts and the number of victims will increase," said US Attorney BJay Pak. "We're estimating somewhere around the million-dollar range."
Church leaders who trusted the Greenhills still struggle to understand how things could have fallen apart so quickly. Some had to scramble to raise new funds and buy new tickets to salvage their mission trips, while getting little or no answers from the company.
We got a similar response from Beth Greenhill last year when we tried asking questions outside her townhouse.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Not right now," she said and quickly ran inside.
For many other churches across the country, there will be no cheek turning here.
“If she would have been repentant, if she would have been hey, this is wrong, just was up front with us, it would have been a whole different story," explained Robinson. "She lied to us. Misled us. Refused to handle this biblically.”
In fact, it's the Bible that ties all of these victims together. Interesting, because Beth and Andy Greenhill's father has a criminal history of his own. And it starts with the good book.
According to his criminal file, Roy Greenhill, Sr. was sentenced to five years in prison in 1989. A Gwinnett jury convicted him of securities fraud, taking the life savings of an elderly Doraville man for a Bible publishing venture that never materialized.
Greenhill served as his own attorney.
“Maybe the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I guess," speculated Robinson. "That's surprising and shocking in a sense. Very sad to hear that.”
Both Andy and Beth Greenhill posted bond and remain free. The indictment accuses them of stealing church money “by making substantial cash withdrawals” to be used “at restaurants, department stores, and other vendors.”
Prosecutors say they'll search for anything they can seize from the Greenhills to pay back those churches, but they make no guarantees. U.S. Attorney Pak understands the disappointment.
“They're going on a noble cause," he pointed out. "A mission trip, to help those less fortunate than we are. And they are. And to find out that that well-intentioned road and working hard to raise money to take these trips was completely stolen would probably be heartbreaking."