By Miranda Cerovski
After wiring a large sum of money to secure a church property, Ed Cerovski, Far West End treasurer, received an alarming call from the settlement agent. The agent’s email had been hacked and she didn’t know where the money had been wired too. “I felt sick,” said Cerovski.
There were many times Far West End members came close to buying property, but various reasons kept them for making a purchase. The church’s land acquisition committee eventually found an open field and, though it wasn’t listed for sale, learned the owner was open to the idea of selling it to be a church property. “As negotiations came to a close, the final step was to bring a cashier’s check to the settlement agent,” said Cerovski. As soon as he received wiring instructions, Cerovski transferred the money and emailed the agent to confirm the transaction. That’s when he found out the agent’s account had been hacked.
“I called the bank right away to stop the transfer. Other members of the committee contacted the FBI, police department and the church conference about the wire fraud,” says Cerovski. After what felt like hours, he was able to get in touch with a banker who took the information needed to stop the transfer. “All I could do was wait.” But it had been too late — the money was in an account at a Florida bank.
Meanwhile, pastor Junnie Pagunsan, received a phone call from a strange man who claimed to own the account. “We asked him to return our money,” said Pagunsan. “He acted confused and said he needed to investigate the ownership of the money before taking action.” Committee members discovered the man had a history of mishandling funds and was known for repeatedly opening and closing his company and oversea accounts.
After five long days, members learned the money had been frozen in the account. However, pending a fraud investigation, the funds would not be released for at least 30 days and there was a chance the money would never be returned. This presented another series of problems – in order to keep the property, the closing deadline, 18 days away, needed to be met. A member contacted the bank’s CEO and four days later, the funds were back in the church’s account.
The next day, Cerovski went to the bank, requested a cashier’s check and hand delivered it to the settlement agent. “The property is secured,” said Cerovski, “and this spring it was dedicated. Through this challenging spiritual journey, God has once again proved that He is faithful and hears our prayers.”