Buffalo Churches Victims of Grant Writing Scam

Church clergy and community leaders in the Buffalo, N.Y.-area have faced a series of unpleasant surprises since last summer. Organization leaders have embarked on numerous capital and other projects with the understanding that they were being supported by grant funding, only to find out later that such grants were never awarded or even sought by a supposed grant writer.

New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood announced this week that Christina Sanford Gordon has been sentenced to between 7.5 and 15 years for second degree grand larceny and two to four years for first degree scheme to defraud and second degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Gordon plead guilty to the charges in March. The sentences will run concurrently.

Gordon convinced organization leaders that she had applied for and obtained state-awarded grants, according to Underwood’s office. In some instances, she wrote to leaders under the name “Sylvia Gregory” or as the state attorney general congratulating them on grant awards. Some letters even propped up Gordon’s work as a grant writer. An investigation showed, however, that Gordon never applied for any grants despite collecting more than $200,000 in service fees. Gordon has signed confessions of judgment for 35 complaints with outstanding damages and has been ordered to pay full restitution.

Victims of the scheme include Elim Christian Fellowship Church, which paid Gordon more than $16,000 for her services and embarked on a $345,000 paving project after leadership was informed that the church had received a $900,000 grant. The church is now in debt to contractors. Good Shepherd Temple Church leaders similarly paid $4,575 to Gordon and began a roofing project after being told that a grant had been received. Contractors ceased work midway through the project after not receiving payment and community members and donors stepped in to pay the $43,000 difference.

Similar schemes were perpetrated against other local churches, an amateur athletic union, and an organization dedicated to celebrating the achievements of members of the local African American community.

Gordon had just been released from federal prison on unrelated charges in January of 2017 and has a criminal history dating back to 1989, according to the release. In a consent order, she has agreed to never own or operate a business in the state.

Individuals who believe that they have been defrauded by Gordon are encouraged to file a complaint online or call the attorney general’s office at 716-853-8404.