OPINION: For The Last Two Years, We Members Of The United Pentecostal Church Of Rock Springs Have Been Begging For Help


The following was written and submitted by Jeff Ramaj.

October 18, 2017

Rocky Mountain District UPCI
4536 Wilson Way
Gillette, WY 82718

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Dear Sirs:

I write this letter with great sadness. Like many other devout Pentecostals in Rock Springs, I just want to return to church and to the UPCI. Like all other devout Pentecostals, I just want a pastor who cares for the souls of the local congregation. Because of you, Rock Springs lacks that. For the last two years, we members of the United Pentecostal Church of Rock Springs have been begging for help. We reached out to Matthew Pearce and Steven Carnahan more than once because of both spiritual and secular issues with Samuel Keith Riley. Rather than assistance from the District, we received ridicule. Rather than an investigation, we have received disbelief. We are ignored, we are demeaned, and we are cut off from the succor that the Rocky Mountain District is supposed to provide.

Our spiritual grievances are by far the most pressing concern for the District’s attention. The District has in Rock Springs a faithful and pious congregation, but it has been receiving false doctrine since 2014. Samuel Keith Riley preaches that God gives him what he wants. He claims that he can command Jesus. He stands at the pulpit and tells this congregation that he alone is the Church, that he must be paid a tithe for the faithful to avoid hell, that loving God means the congregation will give Riley their money. He claims that he can heal people. He says that Jesus wants Christmas presents in the form of cash to Riley. Samuel Keith Riley tells his congregation that they will die without his prayers and that the Devil must do what he says. We are told God will strike us dead as punishment for missing Church. The examples of false doctrine preached by Riley are legion, but the messages listed here were among the most frequent. As we began to resist his false doctrine, Riley’s favorite saying was that one cannot come against a man of God without being killed by Jesus.

I would like to know which Jesus he was talking about. The Jesus of the Bible is a loving teacher who opposes those who preach for financial gain.

Only the District can address these spiritual concerns to save the Rock Springs congregation. Because of the District’s inaction, we turned to the law to address our secular concerns, filing suit in January 2016. We would have preferred to avoid that step, but Steven Carnahan declined even to acknowledge our certified letters. We sent letters from our first attorney, Jon Aimone, to state our intentions. We sent copies of the draft lawsuit. After a month without response, we had no choice but to file suit.

Even now, the Rileys and people within the District seek to obstruct justice and deny us due process. Suzannah Gambell was retained to dismiss the suit. At a hearing on the motion to dismiss, she informed the Court that Matthew Pearce had given Riley permission to use church funds for personal expenses. Ms. Gambell added that the theft was justified and, if not, had been forgiven by the District. If Riley did no wrong, what need was there for forgiveness?

The judge did not dismiss the suit. Ms. Gambell had only been retained for the motion to dismiss, so she withdrew from the litigation.

Once Ms. Gambell withdrew from the lawsuit, the Rileys increased their obstructionist behavior. Within the lawsuit, we began discovery. The Rileys ignored the discovery requests served on them, and also ignored the discovery requests we served on the United Pentecostal Church, Inc. of Rock Springs and on the Rock Springs Revival Center, UPCI. Our attorney had to file a motion to compel the defendants to cooperate with discovery. The judge held a hearing in May, and the Rileys did not even attend. The judge issued the order compelling discovery.

The Rileys ignored that order, too. Our attorney moved for default judgment as a sanction because the Rileys kept ignoring the orders. The judge held another hearing on August 15, 2017. The Rileys showed up at that hearing, but did not get another attorney because they had already spent all church funds. As a result, the United Pentecostal Church, Inc. of Rock Springs and the Revival Center of Rock Springs, UPCI were not represented and could not appear at that hearing. The judge entered partial default judgment in our court case and sent our attorney to the church to get the documents we requested.

The records were turned over to the court, where they are still being held. But, our attorney has begun to review them. As a result of the seizure, we have learned a lot of important things.

First, Riley has been lying to the District. While he was ignoring our lawsuit, he was representing to the District that the suit was minor and he was winning. As the attached newspaper clipping shows, this was far from the truth. In fact, several orders were entered against the Rileys. We also were told that Riley failed to inform the District that the United Pentecostal Church, Inc. of Rock Springs and the Revival Center of Rock Springs were defendants in our suit, leading the District to believe that it was only against the Rileys. This was also untrue. Of course, the District should have known better. We sent a copy of the lawsuit, with the two churches named as defendants, to Steve Carnahan. They were sent certified mail, so we can show that Mr. Carnahan received them. He seems to have hidden the documents from the rest of the District Board. Apparently, Riley also has said that we found nothing and have already returned the documents and computers seized on August 15, 2017 to him. This is untrue. Our investigation continues, and the above photographs show that everything seized, except Tanua Riley’s personal computer, is with the judge.

Second, the way in which the Rileys went about paying Ms. Gambell for her services was both a violation of the church bylaws and a violation of the law. Specifically, Ms. Gambell was paid directly with church funds. The bylaws do not permit that. The Rileys attempted to amend the church bylaws, and also altered the church membership rolls, after we had notified Mr. Carnahan of our complaints against Riley. This also violated the bylaws and was void. The funds with which Ms. Gambell was paid were also earmarked and were directly solicited for their earmarked accounts. It was against federal law to repurpose those funds to pay Ms. Gambell. Mr. Riley caused the church to break federal law for his own benefit.

That wasn’t enough for him though. He started selling church property on Facebook. He even took items to a flea market in Louisiana—anything to raise more cash to sustain his family’s spending habits.

As our attorneys keep looking through the records, they have discovered further evidence of the Rileys’ malfeasance. A forensic accountant is currently performing an accounting, though the going is slow because there are so many records, bills, and receipts missing. Regardless, the forensic accountant has found sufficient evidence to show that the Rileys diverted monies from the general fund to their own personal enrichment. There is also compelling evidence that the Rileys committed tax fraud in a manner for which the churches could be held liable. In 2015 and 2016, the W2 that was submitted to the IRS for Samuel Keith Riley said that he was paid just under $24,000. Church records and bank records show that he was paid tens of thousands of dollars more than that each year—the difference in 2015 is more than $34,000. These payments were not reported to the IRS. Payroll taxes were not withheld. Because of the Rileys’ actions, the church could be held responsible for thousands of dollars in back taxes and penalties. All of the Rileys actions in this regard violate federal law. There is no question of that. The only questions relate to the timeframe in which the Rileys acted, how much the Rileys took, and which laws in specific were violated. As new evidence of new crimes continues to surface, no one can yet answer these questions. All I can do is assure you that there will be further allegations as the evidence is processed; it would be irresponsible of me to characterize those allegations at this time.

I can say that as our investigation progresses, it has implicated other members of the District. There is evidence that inculpates Matthew Pearce and Steve Carnahan in Riley’s actions. At best, they knew of the actions and permitted them. At worst, they conspired and colluded with Riley to embezzle money, commit tax fraud, and cover up Riley’s crimes. Regardless, there are a number of civil violations that the District should be aware of, as these two men have breached their fiduciary duties to the District and to the Rock Springs congregation. It will be up to law enforcement to determine whether criminal violations also exist.

However, it is no secret that Hogue embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the District and was not prosecuted. This raises questions that are relevant to Pearce’s and Carnahan’s actions with regards to Rock Springs. Did members of the District Board collude with Hogue? Did they receive private compensation in exchange for their support in not prosecuting him? Does Riley’s situation present a tempting opportunity for financial gain in the same fashion? Any evidence we uncover that might shed light on these questions will be thoroughly investigated and turned over to the proper authorities.

This lawsuit, and the events related to it, show the dire situation in Rock Springs. Being a member of the UPCI has meaning, and I am proud of my membership. It represents integrity. It represents honor. It represents faith. It represents a commitment to a standard of behavior that leads to the betterment of both self and society.

The Rocky Mountain District appears to have lost its way. It is not guiding its members anymore. It is not leading us to be better. It is not protecting congregations or helping pastors to become truly holy men. Instead, it seems that a secular agenda based on financial benefit had taken control of at least a portion of the District Board. This makes a mockery of the UPCI and all it stands for. I urge the District Board to distance itself from members who have become distracted by venal concerns. I ask the District Board to take a hard look at itself, and to clean house if necessary.

I want to close by assuring you that my words are true and that they are backed by evidence. I am committed to cooperating with the District Board in its investigations, and I will provide any documentation from my investigation that you wish to see. It pains me to make the accusations I have made. It is disappointing to see where this evidence has led. I want nothing more than to return to a godly church. To that end, I ask the Rocky Mountain District to reclaim its honor. The strongest step forward would be to remove both the obvious corruption and all attachments to it. Riley is the obvious corruption, and I recommend that his pastor’s license be revoked.Mr,s. Pearce and Carnahan are the attachments to the corruption. For the sake of the UPCI and the Rocky Mountain District, it would be best for them to resign.

Jeff Ramaj