Church Warning Others About Potential Scam

Posted at 5:06 AM, May 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-30 05:06:38-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18)– Several people at Bethel Baptist Church say they believe a man took advantage of their generosity, costing them tens of thousands of dollars this spring. 

Now they want to warn other churches about him–and the tactics they say he used to scam them. 

Pastor Tony Herald says a man sitting in the front pew caught everyone’s attention. He claimed to be an army veteran whose wife died and whose daughter had leukemia. 

"He began to tell me all these stories about how bad everybody had treated him, and he had no money, and he had this opportunity for a job."

Herald says the man needed equipment for that job so he loaned him $378.

In the days and weeks to come, he says the man came back to church often needing something else. 

"And then the next day I gave him another $300, and then the next day it was another 200, then it was 100." 

Herald says in all, he loaned the man nearly $5,800 total. 

Another couple from the church showed us receipts of the more than $12,000 they wired the man to get him back on his feet. 

That man, who they say is Timothy Estes, promised via a hand-signed note he would pay everyone back.

But Herald says now eEtes can’t be reached.   

"I kept wanting to believe that somehow he was good, but he was just a wicked man."

Police say there are no warrants out for Estes’ arrest, but another church filed a report about a man with the same name in February. 

"If he’s doing it, I’m sure there are others following that same pattern, and we don’t want them to go through what we’ve been through." 

We tried to reach Estes several times for his side of the story. He didn’t answer or call back.