RALEIGH – Last Friday, news broke that three Word of Faith ministers have been charged with unemployment fraud for orchestrating a morally bankrupt scheme, justified by the group as “God’s Plan,” to salvage their failing businesses. So far only three people have been charged in connection with the scandal, and one of them is a friend and donor of Dan Forest: Jason Gross.
Gross, who contributed to Forest’s campaign in 2017, and his father, Dr. Jerry Gross, were sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay restitution of over $160,000 for laying off employees – including themselves – and then continuing to work at their podiatry clinic, Foot and Ankle Care of the Carolinas.
The courts have ruled and bad actors have been held accountable, which raises the question: How much does a Forest Friendship cost North Carolinians?
FOREST FRIENDSHIP CALCULATOR
- Between 2009 and 2011, Jason and Jerry Gross claimed $149,970 in unemployment insurance benefits by laying off employees, including themselves, and then continuing to work.
- For at least $900 in campaign contributions, Forest is willing to forge a friendship with Word of Faith fraudsters, including recently charged Jason Gross:“Campaign finance records show that Forest accepted at least $900 in donations from Word of Faith members in 2017, including a $100 contribution from church leader Pastor Jane Whaley and another $100 from Jason Gross, a minister who pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud last year.” (AP).
- This Forest Friendship also features quality time. In July 2017, Forest attended a fundraiser with Word of Faith leaders. Here, in a photo provided to the News & Observer, he is pictured with Robin Webster, a leader of Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale in Rutherford County:
(Source: News & Observer, January 2018)
Meanwhile, Word of Faith remains under investigation for widespread abuse and alleged human trafficking. The Associated Press has cited 43 former members who claimed congregants were “punched and choked in an effort to beat out devils.” North Carolinians are right to be alarmed, especially given Forest continues to refuse to condemn the group, whose former members have offered detailed allegations of abuse, manipulation, fraud, obstruction of justice and unpaid labor.