SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) A South African man has been convicted and sentenced for scamming a Tyler-area church out of thousands of dollars.
According to the Smith County District Attorney’s Office, Livingstone Zitha, 52, of South Africa, claimed to be the pastor of a 5,000 member church in Johannesburg and ran a large orphange. Officials say his promotional materials said a donation of $250 would allow his ministry to feed a child for a year.
Church members told officials they were suspicious of Zitha after he stayed with the church for two months and was not giving precise details about the ministry. Prosecutors called two Secret Service agents to the stand who testified that the ministry was fraudulent. Another pastor from South Africa also testified he had never heard of Zitha, his church, or his orphanage.
“He ate 21 children’s yearly meals in less than one month, and that is sickening.”Prosecutors during closing arguments
The District Attorney’s Office said that Zitha’s bank records showed that he primarily spent the ‘love offerings’ on fast food, coffee, car washes, and other personal expenses.
Zitha was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison.
The Smith County District Attorney’s Office urges people to be cautious when donating money to anything related to Zitha’s active non-profit organization – Livingstone Zitha Ministries.