Preacher charged with setting fire to Clarke County church, defrauding IRS on taxes

| November 5, 2009

MOBILE, Ala. — Federal agents this afternoon asked for the public's help in finding a preacher who has been charged with setting fire to his church in Clarke County, filing false tax returns and using another person's Social Security number.

The indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Mobile charges Ron Bordelle Williams, 42, with nine criminal violations. He faces a mandatory-minimum sentence of seven years in prison — and as long as 40 — if convicted of the arson charge.

According to the allegations, Williams set fire to the Miracles of Prayer Church/Word of Life Center on U.S. 43 in Grove Hill on Dec. 27, 2005. Mike Messinger, the resident agent in charge of the Mobile office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, said Williams had insurance on the building.

Agents have been unable to locate Williams. Messinger said the address Williams listed on his most recent drivers license appears to be fictitious.

The fire at the Miracles of Prayer Church damaged the roof and gutted the inside of the building. A power surge caused by the blaze sparked a fire at a building on the adjoining property owned by the Clarke County Baptist Association, although Messinger said that firefighters quickly put it out.

The ATF investigated the blaze, as it does all church fires. Messinger said investigators and the state fire marshal's office, quickly ruled out an accidental cause and then determined that it had been intentionally set.

"Once we started investigating, a lot of red flags went up," he said.

Messinger said Williams lived in west Mobile years ago and more recently had a residence in Clarke County. He also has homes in Louisiana and other states and is affiliated with other churches, Messinger said.

Anyone with information about Williams' whereabouts is asked to contact the ATF office in Mobile at 251-405-5000.

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Category: Church Security

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