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Texas Church Still Seeking Return of Funds After Former Pastor and Wife Sold Property

The proceeds from the sale of the Cedar Cross Country Church property in rural North Texas have been placed in a receivership, and the plaintiffs—former elders of the church—have asked the state district court in a motion for summary judgment to declare that the funds rightly belong to the church.

Randy and Michelle Free

In January 2022, the 413th District Court in Johnson County, Texas, ordered all funds held by the Independent Bank Group in the names of former pastor Charles Randall (Randy) Free, his wife Michelle Free, or Team Heritage International be turned over to the named receiver. The funds can only be expended with permission of the court.

A receivership is “a court order whereby all the property subject to dispute in a legal action is placed under the dominion and control of an independent person known as a receiver,” according to West’s Encyclopedia of American Law.

The court named Christopher Cass as the receiver in the case involving the church property and other funds.

The case began in 2021. In June, according to the plaintiffs’ petition, Randy Free began taking control of the church’s assets by making himself the president and registered agent for the Cedar Cross Country Church.

The Frees then set up a separate non-profit corporation, Team Heritage International, in order to move the church’s assets and sell the church property, the petition claims.

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The plaintiffs assert the Frees sold the church property for somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million to MYR Real Estate Holdings and used about $500,000 of the proceeds to purchase a house for themselves in nearby Godley.

Two church elders, Byron Rayburne and John Hagan, brought a civil action to stop the Frees from engaging in any further financial transactions involving funds they say belong to the church. They were granted an injunction.

In March 2022, Cass was granted permission to sell the real property in Godley in a private sale for cash.

In its motion for summary judgment to the court, the plaintiffs ask for a declaration that the Frees are not elders of the church and that the church is entitled to any funds held by the court or the receiver.

The summary judgment motion is set for a hearing on January 27.

In September 2021, the couple was indicted for six first degree felonies, including property theft greater than $300,000, money laundering, and theft of property against a non-profit corporation. They were also charged with second degree felonies of money laundering between $150,000 and $300,000, and a third degree felony of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

The Johnson County District Attorney’s office confirmed the criminal case is still pending, but could give no other details.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and coaching high school extemporaneous speaking and debate.

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