Former Celebration Church Pastor Stovall Weems and his wife, Kerri, have settled with First Citizens Bank after a claim stating they defaulted over $700,000 in unpaid debt.
According to court documents filed last May, First-Citizens Bank said the Weemses “failed, neglected, and refused to pay” about $716,123 overdue in defaulted loans.
The Weemses owed over $600,000 of that debt for their nonprofit Honey Lake Farms Inc., a 565-acre hunting preserve with exotic animals, and a 5,000-square-foot lodge.
The rest of the unpaid loans—a little over $70,000—was from credit cards managed by two of the couple’s companies: Weems Group LLC and Northstream Management Group LLC.
Last month, an attorney for the bank filed a notice stating First Citizens was voluntarily dismissing the suit due to an amicable settlement.
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However, the Weemses’ days in court are far from over. Despite the settlement with First Citizens Bank, the couple remains involved with two other lawsuits pending resolution.
Last Spring, Celebration Church launched an investigation over concerns that Weems breached his fiduciary duties to the church. A 22-page report accused Weemses of fraud and said he “unjustly” enriched himself at the expense of the church through a series of deals and purchases.
The report claimed his conduct brought Celebration “to the brink of insolvency” and listed the church’s unpaid accounts receivable at more than $3.3 million.
Following Weems’ resignation from all roles at Celebration in April, the couple filed a defamation lawsuit against their former church. In it they claimed the church’s report that he committed “rampant spiritual and emotional abuse” along with fraud slandered his character.
Judge Marianne Lloyd dropped the defamation suit but left open an opportunity for the Weemses to renew the case—which they reopened last October.
In addition to the defamation suit, the Weemses have another case to defend.
Celebration filed a lawsuit on June 1 seeking to remove the couple from a million-dollar estate they claim Weems purchased last summer as a parsonage without authorization from the church’s board.
The suit said although the Weemses have no property rights, title, or interest, they continue to live on the property after Weems’ resignation and refuse to pay rent or vacate the premises.
Lawyers representing the Weemses and the church will present their arguments on the property dispute on Jan. 23.
The next hearing on the defamation case will proceed on Jan. 24.
This piece originally appeared at MinistryWatch.
Jessica Eturralde is a military wife of 18 years and mother of three who serves as a freelance writer, TV host, and filmmaker. Bylines include Yahoo, Huffington Post, OC16TV.
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