Did an Ohio megachurch swindle an elderly woman out of hundreds of thousands of dollars? That’s what Bridget Pollard, 76, is alleging. Since her husband died back in 2015, Pollard has been living alone and now suffers from dementia and other mental illnesses. Under the care of the Cook County public guardian, she’s decided to wage a fight against the megachurch to “reclaim her life-savings.” But just how much did she end up giving to the megachurch, Grace Cathedral, and why does she believe she was taken advantage of?
According to her niece, Bridget Johnson, Pollard “emptied out her late husband’s state pension, and it wasn’t long before she wrote a $340,000 check, payable to Grace Cathedral.” Unfamiliar with Grace Cathedral? Well, it’s a megachurch based out of Akron, Ohio that “televises the ministry of Rev. Ernest Angley.” According to the lawsuit put together by the Public Guardian’s Office, Pollard was targeted by the church as soon as it found out she had money. Speaking on the matter, Dawn Lawkowski-Keller of the Public Guardian’s Office said:
“She was basically stalked by the church to give money. The literature talks about how you’ll go to heaven if you give this money.”
The so-called stalking occurred even though Pollard, according to her niece, wasn’t all too active in the church. In fact, it had been years since she last stepped foot inside the church, and even before that she “only visited a handful of times, once for her baptism.” However, she did stay “connected through a singer at the church, Corliss Whitney,” who is also named in the lawsuit. It turns out, Pollard and Whitney became so close that Whitney eventually “became her power of attorney.” According to Lawkowski-Keller, Whitney even “tried to petition to become her guardian, which is very unusual.” Lawkowski-Keller also pointed out that Whitney “never once tried to remove her from that bad situation.”
Understandably, Pollard’s family is extremely frustrated with her situation. Not only did her church allegedly swindle her out of her life savings, but she has been diagnosed “with bipolar disorder and lacks the capacity to make sound decisions and is unable to make personal or financial decisions.” Today she “lives in a nursing home on the city’s North Side,” leaving her family wishing they could do more for her. Her niece said, “I’m very sad for my aunt, that she spent all these years she thought she had a good friend, and a church she believed in, and this was all done in the name of God.”
Fortunately for Pollard and her family, though, the Public Guardian’s Office is going to bat for her. Not only has the office played a large role in filing the lawsuit, but it has also “frozen some of the church’s assets as it tries to get Pollard’s money back.”
An attorney for Grace Cathedral has yet to comment on the lawsuit.