Mid-South man claims to be pastor with startup church, workers say they were swindled

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Things are far from peaceful when it comes to Greater Victory Church of Memphis, a new church that formed and shut down in a matter of weeks, shocking the people who signed on to work there.

Some of the members have gone as far as filing a police report to stop the pastor in his tracks.

Regina Osei blames it all on the man who started Greater Victory and listed himself as pastor, 22-year-old Jaycolby Robinson.

"I felt such a heaviness," Osei said.

Osei said Robinson's pitch reeled in a lot of people who were looking for jobs with the church, including herself. She saw a job posting on line and applied for associate pastor at $48,000 a year.

"It was an associate pastor position to visit hospitals and nursing homes and teach Bible study and things like that," Osei said.

She talked to Robinson over the phone.

"He told me about his background, that he was from the Church of God in Christ, and that now he was a member of Bellevue Baptist Church, and that this was a church plant of seven Baptists," Osei said.

She said he told her if she felt it was a good fit, the job would be hers.

"They haven't even met me, and they're saying, if it's a good fit for me, they're going to welcome me aboard," Osei said. "So I was kind of questioning that statement to myself."

Osei wasn't the only one brought in.

Another woman, who asked us not to reveal her identity, says she got a $45,000 per year job as director of business development.

"It seemed like it was a good match," she said. "Just as far as, you know, because my background is in finance, and so that was more so what it was around, just handling the financial business of the church."

The new employees said they trusted  Robinson because he said he was affiliated with big name churches in the area.

"By mentioning that this was a Bellevue Baptist plant, well, that's a very prominent church," Osei said. "And that gave a bit of credibility in my head to what he was doing. It was the Bellevue Baptist plant, and it was also a Southern Baptist Convention initiative."

"I think the budget for the church, the Southern Baptist was supposed to fund us for two years, and the budget was like $1.8 million, including, you know, our salaries and everything," the other woman said.

It was all happening fast.

But Osei said Robinson told her of a problem before she was hired.

"So what he wanted to tell me was that there had been an early church administrator, early on, that has taken money from the church," Osei said. "And for this reason, the committee that was making all of the decisions about, you know, funding and everything, they initially were hesitant to continue with him."

She said he promised funding would be come in October and asked her to work without being paid.

"So I don't really have a problem with doing ministry without getting paid," Osei said. "I said, but however, when I apply for a job, I do expect to be paid. So I told him, I will pray about it."

She wasn't the only one.

Another woman said she was already on-board and had been working as Robinson`s personal assistant, expecting a salary of $46,000 per year.

She said she worked for five weeks but never got a paycheck.

"I was told that Greater Victory was already approved for funding through Southern Baptists," she said. "So he told me that my salary was approved, and that I will get paid on the second week of September. But the following Sunday, I was supposed to get a check, and I never received it. His only excuse was it's coming, be patient."

In fact, she said she was out of the $500 she gave the Pastor to help her get a car.

"He was working," she said. "He claimed he was working on getting me a vehicle. But that never happened. Gave him the money, so he could take it to a guy that could help me get in a vehicle. And when I gave him the money to go ahead and get started, he took the money, and he never returned it, and I never got a car."

She says after complaining she finally got her money back.

The workers said Robinson even required employees pay him for their own background checks.

After weeks without pay, they got suspicious.

"You know, we just, we just knew that something's wrong," one woman said.

"So the red flags started going up, and I was going to have a conversation with him and say, you know, we're in that violation of fair labor laws because we're we're asking people to work, and we're working, and that's actually illegal," another said.

The disgruntled workers filed a police report, saying Robinson lured them in under false pretenses by associating himself with Bellevue Baptist and the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Yes, we've been hurt, but we want to stop him before other people who may not have encountered God before," one woman said. "If they encounter God through him or think they encountered God, if he does it is again then, you know, they're going to be affected, and they're not going to come back to church."

They contacted WREG hoping to expose what they called wrongdoing and to stop others from falling victim.

We reached Jaycolby Robinson by phone. He wouldn't agree to an interview but said he never claimed to have been affiliated with Bellevue Baptist, and he never told anyone he had funding from the Southern Baptist Convention.

We contacted the Mid-South Baptist Association, the local organization that assists start-up churches, and they sent us a statement, saying they had not received any application from Greater Victory Church of Memphis or Jaycolby Robinson, and he was never affiliated with the Mid-South Baptist Association and had not received or been promised any funding.

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, a state arm of the Baptist Convention, told us pretty much the same thing by phone.

"We have no affiliation with him or the church. It is not one of our Tennessee Baptist Churches," said Chris Turner, director of communications for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. "Our process when we are planting churches across Tennessee is pretty strict. We work through established churches to plant churches, and so there is a whole assessment process, training process. It's not as simple as just passing money out. The irony of it is there is no way we would be able to pass out $1.8 million, whatever the amount was, to an individual church."

These disgruntled workers said it's a wake up call.

"We want to get the word out there with what he's doing to people that it's not right," one woman said. "It's not right that he's doing this in the name of the Lord. It's not right that innocent people are being hurt by his actions."

Jaycolby Robinson stressed that his church is now closed. He said all money has now been repaid, but those former workers said that is not completely true. They want him to get help, but they still want him held accountable.

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