Pastor found guilty of pilfering Road Home grant funds

Jim Hanzo
November 19, 2018 - 5:50 pm

A New Orleans pastor who was accused of bilking a Hurricane Katrina victim out of government Road Home grant funding and failed to complete promised renovations to her flood-damaged home was found guilty.

Criminal District Judge Franz Zibilich found Elijah Mealancon, 58, guilty of unauthorized use of moveables (to wit, $33,000 in U.S. currency) after a one-day bench trial. Mealancon, lead pastor of the mobile Elijah Christian Ministries, was found not guilty of an additional charge of exploitation of persons with infirmities.

Mealancon faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 when Zibilich imposes his sentence on Dec. 17. The judge ordered Mealancon remanded into custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office after the verdict was announced.

In the wake of post-Katrina flooding, Mealancon is alleged to have convinced several victims to sign over their Road Home grant checks, convincing them that their restoration money could go further if pooled together under his control for the purchase of supplies, while he organized teams of volunteers to perform refurbishing labor. The victims later complained that promised home repairs were not completed, their restoration funding was never returned, and that Mealancon could not be contacted for an explanation.

"This was another despicable example of someone -- supposedly a man of God -- taking advantage of trusting individuals when they were at their most traumatized and vulnerable," D.A. Leon Cannizzaro said. "We still have three more victims, and three more cases with these identical charges, to present against this defendant in the coming months."

Assistant District Attorney Nick Bergeron prosecuted the case.

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