Gwinnett County church busted for fraud, forgery, police say

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Federal and local authorities have busted a local church saying it was a fraud and front for illegal activity.

Channel 2's Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas was at the Anointed Vision Church in Norcross exclusively as agents moved in on Wednesday.

Investigators say its leader posed as a lawyer and tax preparer, taking money from hundreds of victims.

Melva Washington, 60, was arrested on forgery charges and more potential customers were showing up during the raid.

Gwinnett police and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents said the church was a cover for Washington's tax preparation, day care and law practice.


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The woman identified as Washington's daughter was in no mood to talk after seeing her mother led away in handcuffs.

A customer of Washington's said in all she took $1,200 from him, claiming she was a lawyer and could help with his immigration case.

Instead,  DHS and Gwinnett police say Washington never had a law license and simply forged documents for hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

"I'm very mad with her because I try to help my family, I try to work hard," he said.

Even as police raided the church, a sign out front advertised her work. Investigators say she also illegally worked as a tax preparer and ran a day care.

Noy Mejia showed up with his tax documents just as police were hauling out boxes of potential evidence.

"That's bad, really really bad," he said.

Police believe they have enough evidence to charge her with hundreds, if not thousands, of counts, but likely won't go through all that paperwork, at least not on the local level.