Pastor found guilty of stealing grant money from Hurricane Katrina victim

Pastor found guilty of stealing grant money from Hurricane Katrina victim
Elijah Mealconin, 58, was found guilty of stealing a woman's federal grant money to rebuilt her home after Hurricane Katrina. (Source: Orleans Justice Center jail)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A New Orleans pastor accused of stealing stealing Road Home money from the elderly was convicted Monday (Nov. 19), after a day-long bench trial, according to the Orleans Parish Public District Attorney’s office.

Elijah Mealancon, 58, was found guilty of unauthorized use of moveables by Orleans Criminal District Judge Franz Zibilich, DA’s spokesman Ken Daley said. Zibilich ruled Mealancon not guilty of an additional charge of exploitation of persons with infirmities.

Several homeowners, most of them elderly residents, told the FOX 8 Defenders they paid Mealancon to rebuild their homes, but he never finished the work. The FOX 8 Defenders and volunteers with the National Council of Jewish Women started investigating Mealancon in 2010. Charges were brought against him in 2011, but the DA’s office decided to drop those charges in order to pursue a stronger case against him. The pastor was arrested and charged again in 2013, online court records show.

Multiple victims allege Mealancon convinced them to sign over their Road Home checks, leading them to believe their government recovery funds would do more combined, Daley said. The pastor and owner of the mobile Elijah Christian Ministries said he would use the money to buy supplies and then organize teams of volunteers to rebuild their homes. However, the victims said their homes were never completed and they were never reimbursed.

Although Mealancon has so far only been convicted of conning one victim of her grant money -- worth $33,000 -- Daley said there will be more cases brought forward against him.

“This was another despicable example of someone -- supposedly a man of God -- taking advantage of trusting individuals when they were at their most traumatized and vulnerable,” DA Leon Cannizzaro said. “We still have three more victims, and three more cases with these identical charges, to present against this defendant in the coming months.”

It was not immediately known when the charges will be filed.

Zibilich will sentence Mealancon on Dec. 17, and until then, has ordered him to remain in custody at the Orleans Justice Center jail. Online jail records show Mealancon was booked Monday afternoon.

He faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000, according to Daley.

Assistant District Attorney Nick Bergeron prosecuted Mealancon’s case.

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