Keyes still has plenty of supporters. “He was and remains a tremendous source of strength for those in need,” Mike Martelli, a retired New York City police officer, wrote in a letter vouching for Keyes. But it is the way Keyes has handled millions of dollars entrusted to him that has led his own accountants and others to repeatedly accuse him of self-dealing.
After spending his youth in New Jersey’s middle-class neighborhoods, Keyes went to work in 1989 for a church in Brooklyn’s impoverished Bushwick neighborhood. But when he split from that ministry in 1997, he was accused in a lawsuit of trying to loot assets on his way out, including a house in Pennsylvania’s Poconos that the church had purchased two years earlier for $89,500.
Records show that Keyes transferred ownership of the house to himself, then used the property as collateral for a $70,343 personal loan. In court, he claimed he was entitled to the house because the church bought it for his family and he had been making monthly reimbursement payments. The church said in a lawsuit that Keyes stole the house, and a Brooklyn judge ordered the property returned.
Keyes was hired that same year as pastor of Glad Tidings Tabernacle, a nearly century-old Assemblies of God congregation in Manhattan.
The church struggled financially, but after 9/11 a nonprofit group Keyes controlled, Urban Life Ministries, found itself acting as the conduit for $2.5 million donated by people looking to help the city recover from the attacks. The charity spent much of its windfall on things like water, food and a counseling center for ground zero workers, according to financial records obtained by the AP. It also staged two concerts honoring first responders and U.S. troops.
But financial records show it also spent money on things that had nothing to do with the tragedy, including monthly payments of $734.99 on the personal loan Keyes owed on the house in Pennsylvania and nearly $33,000 for an architect working on church renovations that would include a new living space for his family.