The wife of embattled Redemptive Life Fellowship Bishop Harold Ray ran up a $40,000 credit-card debt on lavish cruises and high fashion at the time the city of West Palm Beach poured money into a controversial partnership with the church, Gossip Extra has learned.
According to six years worth of credit card bills obtained exclusively by Gossip Extra, Ray’s wife Brenda, a prominent preacher, mostly bought jewelry, Louis Vuitton bags and Chanel clothes that she now appears unable to reimburse.
“We are hurting, too,” said Bishop Ray when asked about the bills. He and his wife minister to one of the largest black congregations in the county, a congregation that has been hit hard by the economy. ”It’s ironic they’re saying we took all this money and, yet, we’re hurting just like everybody else.”
What’s more, the bishop is fighting foreclosure on his $700,000 in the gated golf community of Bay Hill Estates, the northwest confines of Palm Beach County. Court records show the Bay Hill Homesowners Association has been trying to get maintenance fees owed by the bishop on the six-bedroom house for almost two years. In all, the Rays owe $2,576.46.
“They’re trying to make us pay for something we already paid for,” Ray said. “They lost a check at one point.”
Citibank, meanwhile, is suing the Rays for $40,039.39 they racked up during the duration of the contract with the city, between 2003 and now. The couple currently is charged $940-a-month in interest and late fees.
Among the expenses:
– 12/24/2004: $14,800 at Gabbay of Miami, a jewelry store
– 12/29/2004: $1,166 at Louis Vuitton, Palm Beach
– 01/02/2005: $1,240 at Chanel, Palm Beach
– 05/16/2005: $10,048 to Royal Caribbean Cruises
– 05/30/2006: $17,000 to Royal Caribbean Cruises
“We’ve always been transparent with the congregation,” Ray said. “Yes, we went on a couple of family cruises. Now, we’re downsizing. Everybody knows we would give our shirt off our back.
Ray gave up a law practice, and his wife her job at American Airlines, about 20 years ago to start the Redemptive Life Fellowship.
Federal investigators this week were poring over thousands of pages of records at West Palm Beach city hall to try to figure out what happened to $1.6 million in grants that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave the church via the city to built low-income housing.
The church built homes (27, say city officials, 30 says the bishop) in the high-crime Coleman Park area. Ray’s employees were supposed to reinvest $2.5 million from the sales of the homes but has yet to do that, according to city officials.
City taxpayers could be on the hook for the $4.1 million if HUD asks for the money back although Ray, who denies any wrongdoing, said this week he’d assist the city in figuring out what happened.
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