Church billed $10K for fraudulent iPhone purchases

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — Elizabeth City police say someone used a church’s name to buy more than a dozen iPhones.

“Who would even think to do something like this?” Fountain of Life employee Christy Wells said.

It’s a question staff at Fountain of Life Ministries have been asking themselves for a couple weeks. A man first tried to buy iPhones in the church’s name at Verizon, but was turned away. Then it happened again, but this time, the purchase went through.

“I’m just amazed somebody would do that,” Pastor Preston Pitchford said.

Wells was in her office at the church when she received the bill from AT&T.

“When I saw it was from AT&T, I was like, I know this has got to be him. He probably succeeded,” Well said. “I see a charge to Fountain of Life for $10,000, and I knew that wasn’t for us.”

The bill charged the church for 17 iPhones, all bought on separate days with different phone numbers.

“That just amazes me that somebody could get away with it not just once, not just twice, but multiple times,” Pitchford said. “We don’t use iPhones here at the church. We don’t even use AT&T.”

The phones were bought under the fake name “Jerome Stokes.” The suspect used the church’s address and a fake federal tax ID number. Police are still working to figure out if the phones were bought from a store or online.

Pitchford fears it could happen to another church.

“This guy is polished,” Pitchford said. “He’s done it before, and he will do it again.”

AT&T told church members they won’t have to pay the money, that it will be taken care of by the company’s fraud department.

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