Gospel Grifters Charged With Robbing Rural Georgia Churches

Two suspects charged with robbing as many as 25 rural Georgia churches.

May 13, 2010— -- Two Georgia men are going to have to answer to a higher power after they were charged this week for robbing as many as 25 rural Georgia churches, according to authorities.

Rico Blackshear, 28, of Dublin, and DeShawn Thomas, 28, of Sandersville, Ga., have been accused by authorities of joining gospel bands in need of extra players in order to case churches through at least 11 counties.

After performing Gospel music that praised the lord, they would return later the same night to break in and pilfer music equipment and other items, according to Capt. Stan Wright of the Laurens County Sheriffs office.

"It was determined that they actually performed at some of these churches, played and sang. What better way to case," Wright told ABC News.

"This hit these churches pretty hard," the captain said. "It's a pretty low thing to do, especially when you're raised to have the utmost respect for the church."

Police say the duo even robbed one church twice, and their final robbery allegedly occured at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church on April 30.

According to Wright his office worked closely with the Washington County Sheriffs, the Tennille Police, and the Johnson County Sheriffs office to piece together the robberies that stretch back until at least February 2009.

"It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. These were mostly rural churches and we're still trying to piece everything back together," Wright said.

Acting on a tip received last week , Washington County Sheriff Thomas Smith said in a release that investigators uncovered over 150 items, six pickup truck loads of items including music equipment, furniture, and speakers in a storage shed on Blackshear's property. Both men were arrested Wednesday.

"We think the total is more than $100,000," Wright said, because police suspect the duo pawned items as they went as well.

"We lost a table and chairs, a keyboard, and a drum," Pastor Clifford Duckworth of the Kingdom Life Church said.

Kingdom Life was hit April 12 according to police, and although they did lose valuable items Duckworth said they made it out better than some churches in the area.

"Ours wasn't a major loss, but we feel violated. It's sacrilegious," Duckworth said.

Gospel Grifters Allegedly Take $100,000 in Items from Georgia Churches

"We're trying to move on, and taking precautions to try and figure out how this happened," he said.

Blackshear frequently played drums and guitar in the bands, and Thomas was a keyboard player, police said.

Yet none of the bands the men performed in are suspected as being involved in their alleged crimes.

According to Wright the men have each been charged with theft by taking and burglary for each of the crimes they've so far been accused of and police suspect there may be more. Niether have an attorney yet nor have they entered a plea.

Anybody with more information is asked to contact the Washington County Sheriff's Office at 478-552-3858 or 478-552-4795.