A controversial church group is back in the Valley and running from

KRGV News, Texas/October 23, 2010

Channel 5 News has been investigating the New Life Ministry for 6 years. They're back on street corners collecting your cash. You might think twice about handing over your hard-earned money.

New Life church members know exactly what to do when our cameras start rolling. We spotted them at a busy McAllen intersection as drivers dropped dollar after dollar into their buckets. One church member jumped on her cell phone when she saw our cameras. She told the person on the other end of the line we were asking questions. Within minutes she was running across the street as another church member followed her. They ducked inside a fast food restaurant down and tried to sneak out the back door to a white van is waiting nearby.

Channel 5 News traced the plate numbers of the van to a San Antonio address and The New Life Ministries church who we've been investigating since 2004,

The ministry is a spin-off of the Deeper Life Christian Church in Tampa, Florida. Their leader is Melvin Jefferson who calls himself Bishop. In 2008 we asked the attorney representing the church, Dennis Brewer, if Jefferson had any formal training as a bishop. The attorney says Jefferson is self trained.

Rick Ross runs a church watchdog group called the Ross Institute.

"The ministry is using homeless people, the most vulnerable people in our country, to raise money on street corners," he said.

Deeper Life recruits homeless people from the streets and moves them into sub-standard housing owned by the church. In San Antonio we found holes in the walls, exposed wiring and trash everywhere. To pay their way church members have to go on fundraising trips to places like the Valley. The money in the buckets goes back to the main church in Florida.

The bishop and his wife live in luxury. They have a mansion, drive at least 5 cars including a Bentley and fly in a private jet. Some have compared the church to a cult.

We called Deeper Life for comment but are still waiting for a call back. As long as this church keeps coming to the Valley CHANNEL 5 NEWS will keep working to get answers.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.