Cicero pastor on house arrest — at his own church
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters May 14, 2013 9:01PM
Bishop Herman Jackson outside his church, the Ark of Safety Apostolic Faith Temple in Cicero, on May 9, 2013. Federal Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ordered Jackson, who faces fraud charges, confined to the church. | Sun-Times library
Updated: June 16, 2013 6:05AM
The feds suggest he broke at least three of the Ten Commandments at his Cicero church.
Now Herman Jackson is confined to the red-brick house of worship prosecutors say was the scene of the crime.
The man known as the church’s bishop sleeps not far from the pulpit where he once preached. And if he strays from the Ark of Safety Apostolic Faith Temple without a court’s permission, authorities will be alerted because he’s on electronic home monitoring.
Welcome to the bizarre world of what appears to be a high-rolling preacher whose church has become his prison — for now.
Neither the charismatic Jackson nor his attorney would talk to the Chicago Sun-Times when asked about the unusual living arrangements, other than to say they’re looking forward to a hearing Wednesday.
That’s when Jackson is expected to ask Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman to let him reunite with his family now living in Georgia while he awaits trial for fraud. Jackson’s attorney said in court documents that confinement to the church is a hardship because his client can’t be with his wife, who is also charged in the fraud scheme, or kids.
But he may need some assistance from above to persuade a seemingly skeptical judge to let him travel to the South.
A federal grand jury accused the couple in October of forging applications from parents of children at various incarnations of the church’s day care seeking state subsidy payments meant to help low-income parents pay for child care.
Prosecutors contend Jackson, who used multiple aliases, knew the applications were filled with false information, such as the parent’s income, the amount of time a child would spend at the day care and the name and number of children there. It’s alleged Jackson preyed on needy parents through a program at the church known as the Single Moms Ministry.
The federal indictment does not specify the amount of money the couple is accused of swindling out of the state, nor does it say how many children were used for the scheme.
Jackson and his wife, who was able to leave the state while awaiting trial, have denied any guilt.
Meanwhile the 36-year-old Jackson, who describes himself online as a believer who has devoted his life to Christ, isn’t allowed to leave northern Illinois. With nowhere else to go but a federal lockup, he was allowed to live at the church starting in November because no family or friends were willing or able to take him in, according to court records.
Prosecutors said Jackson shouldn’t be living at the church, which still displays a sign for a day care at the center of the alleged scheme.
“The church was the location where so much of his criminal activity occurred,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy DePodesta told the judge as she considered the church as an option for home confinement.
But a court agent went to the church and determined it was a “habitable space,” according to court records. There’s a bed, shower and a kitchen, the judge was told. And the court has allowed him a few hours of liberty a week for grocery shopping and other errands.
Last week, when a reporter showed up at the church, Jackson was there dressed in a suit and tie.
But while he’s well-dressed and shows up in court, Judge Coleman said she doesn’t trust Jackson — what he says in court is not consistent, she told him.
“The court believes there’s some danger in your words and how you conduct yourself as to maybe not being forthcoming ... there have been some things you’ve just said that are contradictory. You know, on one hand you don’t have any money. The other hand, you do have money to pay for certain things. One hand, the church has no money. One hand the church does have money,” the judge said.
The church, founded by Jackson in 1997, has had financial troubles including a foreclosure on a $1 million mortgage, county records show. In 2009 it filed for bankruptcy — in debt to utility companies, a bank and a church employee, among others. And its congregation, which at one point grew large enough that Jackson relocated from a storefront to the standalone building in Cicero, has dwindled to about 35 parishioners, according to Jackson’s website and court records.
That hasn’t stopped the church, in name at least, from buying fancy cars or flying Jackson in from Atlanta for weekly services, according to court documents. Jackson’s had two Mercedes — one bought in the church’s name — and a Jaguar, according to documents. The bankruptcy filing in the church’s name shows a Bentley was repossessed from it in 2009.
Jackson acknowledged the cars in court a few months ago after a prosecutor pointed them out — “I know they see a Jaguar,” he said — but he insisted his family and the church have had money trouble, and the flights from Georgia were purchased at cheap stand-by rates.
It’s unclear if the bishop’s congregation still meets at the church, but the fiery evangelizer can be seen at the pulpit in YouTube videos.
His wife, Jannette Faria, can also be seen on the online video website for her role in a Walmart commercial shopping for Easter baskets for a church.
Heather Winslow, Faria’s attorney, said “Jannette is hopeful that her family can all be living together soon.”
They’ve been living apart more than six months.
When Jackson was first charged — and before he was confined to his church — the judge told Jackson he couldn’t leave the Chicago area. That caught Jackson’s attention.
“I can’t go back home?” he asked the judge, who replied, “Not right now.”
“Oh, my wife is going to kill me,” Jackson said.
“Well, you could be in jail,” the judge said.
“That’s a very good point, your honor,” he replied.