Parishioners of the Colorado Springs Fellowship Church and
their pastor, Rose Banks, have filed a civil lawsuit in Federal court, in the District
of Colorado, for violation of the Right to Financial Privacy Act. The church became the target of a grand jury
investigation during which the government illegally seized banking records of
church members without a grand jury subpoena.
Six church members, who were executives of IRP Solutions (IRP) , a software company being investigated by the FBI, were the initial targets of the investigation. One of the defendants is the pastor's son.
Grand jury members asked an FBI agent where he obtained the banking records, since a subpoena had not been issued. He answered that the records were received by subpoena . In response to queries from church members the banking institutions have stated that they did not receive a subpoena from the government.
While federal prosecutors stated publicly that the (church) was not the target of an investigation, the Grand Jury foreman, while testifying in a related case, stated that pastor Rose Banks was the target of the government's investigation into IRP. However, examination of the evidence presented by the government shows that Rose Banks had no involvement with the business.
The case was tried by two grand
juries. The first grand jury found no grounds to indict. A second grand jury in
June 2009 , however, handed down an indictment charging the six men with
defrauding temporary labor companies by submitting fictitious work orders on
nonexistent federal contracts.
The defendants were developing software aimed at aiding law-enforcement and they had hired a former FBI agent and a former immigration official to act as consultants on the project. They stated that the indictment tried to criminalize what they described as, "normal business debt."
Motions were filed during the criminal case trial requesting the government provide defendants with the Grand Jury subpoenas they used to gain access to business and personal banking records related to the defendants and church members. The government vigorously fought release of the subpoenas by citing grand jury secrecy , arguing that even if the records were obtained illegally it did not have any relevance.
The judge stated during court proceedings that she did not think the actual subpoena document itself had any confidentiality requirement as it was nothing more than an administrative document and did not contain secret testimony and such. However, the court never did order the release of the subpoenas. The defendants simply could not challenge the Government during trial on their actions of obtaining these banking records or their vindictive motivations in this case. It strongly appears that the government illegally gained access to business banking records as well and then used these banking records in the criminal case.
All six men pleaded not guilty to the charges, but were convicted on conspiracy charges in a trial that ended on October 21, 2011.
The church filed a $75 million claim for damages directly with the Department of Justice (DOJ) charging the abuse of the Grand Jury process by illegally gaining access to church banking records and selectively targeting the church in a criminal investigation. DOJ dismissed the claim.
"I think our church feels like we're
being totally singled out and dealt with in an unjust way," said Pastor Rose
Banks, whose son, David A. Banks, is one of six men named in the indictment.
They (prosecutors) are trying to portray us as everything we are not by saying that we were somehow involved criminally with these men," Rose Banks said. "The church has never been part of any scheme, ever."
Neither the church nor the pastor was named in criminal charges, although investigators seized church financial records during the investigation.
"We're a very close-knit family," Banks said. "I've always taught my kids to be honest and all of them have given their lives to the Lord."
The six defendants maintain their position that this was a civil matter that the Government turned into a criminal matter. In fact, many of the companies had filed civil suits against their businesses and won civil judgments. The criminal case was concocted when former Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Greg Goldberg sent his associate AUSA Matthew Kirsch a letter requesting prosecution of the defendants criminally for the civil matter. Government officials including Goldberg, Kirsch, and FBI Agent John Smith will be deposed in the civil cases related to their actions to violate the financial privacy of the church and its parishioners.
An interesting side note is that these records were seized during the same time period that FBI Director John Mueller testified before Congress that FBI agents had engaged in widespread abuse of the Patriot Act's, National Security Letters (NSL), to gain access to private citizens' information without subpoenas.