Sheriff: Pastor of Mt. Morris church used 91-year-old to buy pontoon boat, live high life

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MT. MORRIS TOWNSHIP (WJRT) (7/17/2019) - Police say the pastor of a baptist church in Mt. Morris Township took advantage of a 91-year-old parishioner to buy a pontoon boat, a Jeep to pull it and live the high life at casinos.

Pastor Raymond Vliet is accused of obtaining power of attorney for a 91-year-old parishioner and using it for personal gain.

Pastor Raymond Vliet of Old Beth-el General Baptist Church on Bangor Avenue appeared in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing on charges of embezzlement of $20,000 to $50,000 from a vulnerable adult and stealing or retaining a financial transaction device without consent.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell called Vliet a "con artist and swindler."

He said Vliet took the 91-year-old man to Elga Credit Union in April to take out a loan for a pontoon boat. Vliet showed a loan officer his legal power of attorney, but she denied to provide the loan.

Vliet has poor credit and needed help from the 91-year-old, who suffers from dementia, to obtain a loan, Pickell said.

A bank official called the sheriff's office, which led to an investigation by Pickell's Elder Abuse Task Force. Investigators went to the man's house and discovered his wife had just died in 2018.

Police believe Vliet's fiancee served as the wife's caregiver in her final months and profited quite a bit. Pickell said Vliet and his fiancee convinced the couple to sign over the deed for their house to the church before the wife died.

Meanwhile, police say Vliet went to another undisclosed credit union to get a loan for the pontoon boat and received it this time. He also purchased a Jeep to pull the boat.

Vliet also cashed in the man's life insurance policy early and spent money at casinos and living beyond his means, Pickell said.

Only Vliet is facing charges in the case as of Wednesday. Authorities are still investigating whether his fiancee will face any charges.

Pickell said several other members of the church signed over power of attorney to Vliet, so police are investigating whether any of them have been swindled as well.