Church has to pay for missionary tickets twice

November 11, 2011 3:41:09 PM PST
Plans for a mission of mercy have been really expensive for members of the Benson Grove Baptist Church.

For the past nine years, the church has provided for a poor village in the Philippines.

"Some of our church families got together so they could have running water," explained Pastor Billy Cashwell.

The congregation also provided a new school and a church. Cashwell explained that it's been rewarding to see how his church's efforts have changed the lives of villagers.

"They are really small in stature, but they really like basketball," he added.

About a month ago, the church began planning another visit. While researching flights, they said they found a good deal from an online company called and booked six tickets for more than $4,000.

"We actually had the tickets, boarding confirmation, and seating already in hand, actually before we sent the cash to them," said Cashwell.

Since the church had the email tickets in hand, they thought it would be safe to follow the instructions of Atlantic-Fly and wired $4,400 to a bank account in New York. They heard nothing else until days before their flight when the airline told them the credit card Atlantic-Fly used to book their flights was no good.

"The credit card had been rejected," said Cashwell.

Not only was the church out the $4,400, it then had to buy more expensive tickets that cost $7,700 for all six church members to fly to the Philippines.

"We pulled money inside the church's budget to go ahead and purchase the tickets," said Cashwell. "It's a real drain. We're really going to have to pray."

The church turned to the Johnston County Sheriff's Department for help.

"It's always unfortunate, but for a house of worship to be victimized in this way, it's particularly disturbing," said Detective Jeff Caldwell.

Caldwell said his investigation showed the church isn't the only victim. allegedly used a stolen credit card to pull off the scam.

A court order has been filed to see whose account the church wired the money to in New York.

Atlantic-Fly is based in Lithuania, so there is no way to contact them except through mail.

Experts say the big red flag in cases like this is when someone asks you to wire money, because once it's wired, it's very tough to track.

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