3 face criminal charges in San Augustine Co. church deed dispute

Margie Coffee (Source: San Augustine Sheriff's Office)
Margie Coffee (Source: San Augustine Sheriff's Office)
Terry Bishop (Source: San Augustine Sheriff's Office)
Terry Bishop (Source: San Augustine Sheriff's Office)
Ethel Husband (Source: San Augustine Sheriff's Office)
Ethel Husband (Source: San Augustine Sheriff's Office)

SAN AUGUSTINE COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Three East Texans have been indicted by a grand jury for fraud in connection to a family church they say they were trying to re-start in San Augustine County.

The church was built more than 60 years ago. It closed more than two years ago because they did not have a pastor.

The family said they were working to re-start the church including changing the deed. However, the San Augustine County District Attorney said the warranty deed was not properly executed and was a fraudulent document.

Margie Coffee's grandfather donated his land in 1949 so the community could build a church.

"The church had been closed for about a year and a half and we had been thinking well that's our family church why don't we get it going again," Coffee said. So, I called Betty since she's usually in charge of everything."

Coffee said in 2011 she and her cousin, Betty Clark, decided to re-open the church, and both women agreed to elect new church officials. But her cousin Betty had a change of heart.

"She emailed me back and she said that decision was illegal," Coffee said.

Betty Clark said she has been the church's treasurer since 2007.

"She told me she was quitting the church and had found her another one," Clark said.

Clark said she stopped attending church at the end of 2011.

In 2012, The church was re-named. Months later, Coffee said she and two other family members updated the deed. This is when the alleged forgery began.

"We re-did the deed because we had already changed the name from Gloryland Church to what it is now," Coffee said. "We have records from our minutes saying that."

Coffee's attorney said his clients are trying to re-organize their church to be a part of the United Pentecostal Church. He said in order to be apart of the UPC, the land and church were deeded into a new non-profit.

According to court documents, the forgery charges were based on the new deed, and the change was not updated correctly, because the names on the deed were not the proper trustees.

Coffee said church members elected her and her two family members as the new trustees.

"We got the indictment reading where all three of us were charged, and I couldn't believe it," Coffee said. "I hope that it comes out in our favor, and I hope that we can keep on having church down there like we've been doing."

Coffee, her son and another family member were recently indicted by a grand jury and were booked in and out of jail.

"I see where the dope dealers and everything are bonding out for $2,000. It's the same thing they did to us," Coffee said.

Last Friday, Coffee was served a temporary restraining order as part of a separate civil case. She is not allowed to be at the church on Sunday's from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the trial is over.

No trial date has been set yet.

The district attorney declined an interview.

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