Televangelist pastor and gospel singer took £41k meant for Macmillan cancer patients

A 'disgraceful' group of church-going Christians have been told they 'forgot the 10 commandments' after laundering tens of thousands of pounds meant for Macmillan cancer patients. Elijah Kellie, Pastor Moses Kellie, Nadege Kehi, Nobuhle Khanyile, and a fifth defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, happily accepted £41,705 from Macmillan Cancer Support by laundering the cash from 117 false grant applications to 117 different bank accounts between July 2021 and October 2022.

Elijah Kellie, 43, and his brother Moses, 45, a musician and YouTube televangelist, were both born in Sierra Leone, but established themselves as community figures in London through their own companies and charities - namely the London Community Projects, supposedly working in the performing arts, and Kellie Charitable Foundation, apparently providing poverty relief.

Kehi, 42, from Ivory Coast, was previously in a relationship with Moses, while Khanyile, a 47-year-old gospel singer from South Africa, performing as 'Queen Patience', was also in a relationship with the pastor and formerly a co-director of the London Community Projects. The fifth defendant was also connected to the group, but did not take part in the sentencing hearing.

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Pastor Moses Kellie (left), Nobuhle Khanyile (centre), and Elijah Kellie (right) at an event -Credit:Macmillan
Pastor Moses Kellie (left), Nobuhle Khanyile (centre), and Elijah Kellie (right) at an event -Credit:Macmillan

This web of connections was crucial to Macmillan's case, which brought a private prosecution against the church-goers using evidence gathered by their own investigators. A photo of the Kellie brothers alongside Khanyile at a black tie event, found during an open source investigation, was shown to Southwark Crown Court, along with a diagram connecting the five defendants.

Macmillan, which describes itself as the UK's leading cancer charity, provides grants for sick people who need support with things like hospital travel costs, specialist equipment, and food. The means-tested payments, which ranged from £350 to £460 at the time, were usually accessed by a nurse or doctor completing an online application, but this all changed during Covid.

With face-to-face appointments made difficult due to government measures, the charity introduced an internal grant application process where call handlers would take the details from cancer patients and their families over the phone instead. Fraudsters took advantage of that by making hundreds of calls under different aliases, falsely claiming they had a slew of cancers.

On Thursday, May 30, prosecutor Dominic Hockley said: "It was this system, which was designed to help vulnerable people suffering from cancer at a time of national crisis, that was targeted and exploited by those making the false claims."

None of the defendants have ever admitted to being the fraudsters who took advantage of the scheme, but, through their guilty pleas to money laundering, accepted they benefitted from the ill-gotten cash.

'Persistent and targeted'

The diagram drawn up by investigators to show how the money-laundering gang was connected -Credit:Macmillan
The diagram drawn up by investigators to show how the money-laundering gang was connected -Credit:Macmillan

One of those tasked with processing the claims was Emily Hartley, a team leader on Macmillan's Welfare Rights Team, who was contacted by an advisor about a suspicious call. An applicant, calling herself 'Shakera Louis', claimed her bank Lloyds had blocked a grant payment to her account, and specifically requested an email from Macmillan to confirm the grant was legitimate.

Alerted by the unusual circumstances, Ms Hartley revisited the original grant application and discovered the phone number had already been used to make seven other grant applications, all in different names, dating back to July 2021.

That call came from the fifth defendant, whose address was given as a flat in Stratford, East London. After finding two more calls, under the name 'Shakera Louis', Ms Hartley listened back to the recordings and noticed a similarity in voice and the use of the same bank sort code. This was the moment Ms Hartley twigged the grant applications were part of a web of lies.

After looking at phone numbers, sort codes, dates of birth, and email addresses to identify more linked applications, Ms Hartley pored through call recordings totalling 40 hours. She found the caller often complained of a specific set of symptoms, which included epilepsy, high blood pressure, thyroids and, sometimes, 'gout in the neck'.

After putting the findings in a spreadsheet, to spot patterns, she noticed the callers had a similar opening gambit about a nurse giving her a number and calling to check their benefits were correct. The callers also provided different reasons for each grant, like wigs, travel costs, and incontinence pads, and sometimes used different mobile numbers to chase a single application.

Mr Hockley said it was 'clear' the callers provided false information in a 'persistent and targeted' scam, with up to five fake applications in a single day. The callers would also ask the call handler to identify themselves before putting the phone down if they had spoken before. A number of these applications failed, but Macmillan were able to put the attempted fraud figure at £3,730.

'Deliberate disguising of cash source'

Pastor Moses Kellie pictured in his televangelist role (left) and outside Southwark Crown Court (right)
Pastor Moses Kellie pictured in his televangelist role (left) and outside Southwark Crown Court (right) -Credit:Macmillan/Callum Cuddeford/MyLondon

When a call from a woman came through to say her grant payment had failed into her Nationwide account in August 2022, investigators were now ahead of the callers. This time they matched woman's phone number and address to the one used by the caller named 'Shakera Louis' who had called some time before.

The team then tasked a private investigator with delivering a grant cheque to the Stratford home of the woman. When the PI knocked, the door was answered by the fifth defendant. It also turned out the address was registered to Elijah Kellie.

This allowed Macmillan to apply to the High Court for a disclosure order, forcing banks to give up the account holders' identities. The order allowed Macmillan to identify 117 claims, laundered to 45 accounts of Elijah Kellie, 35 accounts of the fifth defendant, 14 accounts of Moses Kellie, 12 accounts of Nadege Kehi, and 11 accounts of Nobuhle Khanyile.

A fraud examiner, who went over the statements, then identified money laundering methods like 'recycling funds' (moving the money between accounts in the same bank), 'layering' (moving funds to a different bank but in the same name), or just moving the funds to secondary and tertiary account holders to be spent.

Mr Hockley said the layering and mixing of funds made tracing the cash 'very difficult and sometimes impossible' as he accused the group of 'deliberately disguising the source of funds to make recovery difficult'.

While all defendants were charged with conspiracy to defraud Macmillan, shortly before the trial the four defendants who were sentenced this week pleaded guilty to money laundering charges under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, avoiding a six-week trial. Macmillan says almost all the money is now recovered.

'They seem to have forgotten the 10 commandments'

A poster for a gig in Eltham of Queen Patience
Nobuhle Khanyile a.k.a Queen Patience is due to play a gig in Eltham this summer -Credit:Instagram

On day two of the sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, May 31, defence counsel acting for the group called for suspended sentences and community orders. Variously, they argued an immediate term of imprisonment would disconnect the defendants from their children, and that the case should not be aggravated by the fact it was a cancer charity.

But before the barristers could make any submissions, the somewhat incredulous Judge Michael Hopmeier posited a question to the supposedly God-fearing crooks sat at the back of the court, pointing to the 'disastrous' consequences their 'disgraceful' crimes have had on cancer patients and their families.

"All of good character and churchgoers and so forth, seem to have forgotten the 10 commandments," thumped the judge. "These defendants all purport to be good Christians, active members of the church, some, if not all, involved in charities. I would like some explanation as to how they have become involved and why they have become involved in such disgraceful offences, effectively depriving cancer victims of money."

Nobuhle Khanyile (left) and Elijah Kellie (right) leaving Southwark Crown Court -Credit:Callum Cuddeford/MyLondon
Nobuhle Khanyile (left) and Elijah Kellie (right) leaving Southwark Crown Court -Credit:Callum Cuddeford/MyLondon

Christopher Harding, defending Elijah Kellie, said his client had paid back all £16,780 as he called for the 'exceptional' step of suspending his prison sentence. The barrister also argued, just because there must have been leadership within the group, it did not mean his client had taken a leading role, and that the offence had been 'very, very significantly out of character'.

"How is it someone, who purports to have particular morals, ends up in front of you [the judge] for money laundering proceeds from a charity?" asked Mr Harding, briefly leaving the question to hang over the court.

Then he answered it, telling the judge: "Certainly, without wanting to sound trite, to veer and to sin is a very human thing, even for those who purport a religion and faith, and the commandments of forgiveness apply."

Jonathan Akinsanya, acting for Moses Kellie, echoed Mr Harding's sentiments as he drew on his own knowledge of the Bible to answer the same question. "The reality is: temptation," Mr Akinsanya said.

"A lack of, I suppose, the ability to say no. I suppose, human frailty. What I can say on behalf of Mr Kellie, is that he is deeply remorseful and he wants to express his deepest apologies to Macmillan."

Kathleen Mulherne, for Kehi, and Michael Field, for Khanyile, made similar arguments on behalf of their clients, both former lovers of Moses Kellie. They highlighted the likely effect of imprisonment on their shared children and their deep regrets at getting involved in the scheme. Mr Field pointed out his client, who performs music around the world, had won awards for her own charitable work.

'Dishonest financial greed'

Elijah Kellie wearing a face mask and cap outside the court after he was spared prison
Elijah Kellie hid behind a face mask outside the court after he was spared prison -Credit:Callum Cuddeford/MyLondon

Judge Hopmeier was only just persuaded to suspend the 15-month sentence of Elijah Kellie for 18 months, while he followed the probation service recommendation of community orders for everyone else. Moses Kellie was handed an 18-month community order with 150 hours unpaid work, Kehi a 12-month community order with 100 hours unpaid work, and Khanyile a 12-month community order with 80 days of unpaid work. They will also complete rehabilitation days with the probation service.

The judge described the wider fraud scheme as 'organised, sophisticated, and targeted' but reminded the court the defendants had only admitted laundering the proceeds of the scam, not conspiring to carry it out. Turning to their roles, he did, however, reject the assertions of some that the group had not known the money was from a cancer charity.

"The motive for this case was dishonest financial greed," said Judge Hopmeier. "The fact they chose to commit serious organised money laundering is all the more surprising not only because they are of mature age with good character, but because they each profess to be persons of faith from churches and are involved in charities themselves."

'Genuine applicants missed out on assistance'

Nadege Kehi running away from our reporter
Nadege Kehi was not keen to answer questions about how she took money meant for cancer patients -Credit:Callum Cuddeford/MyLondon

Bob Browell, counter-fraud manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "Frauds perpetrated against charities like Macmillan strike at the very essence of societal trust and altruism. The emotional toll of fraudulent activities reverberates long after the crime is uncovered, tarnishing the reputation of charities and eroding public confidence in charitable causes."

Mr Browell explained the 'egregious' breach of trust meant a temporary pause on paying out grants to all applicants, denying genuine cancer applicants the money they needed, and the loss of funding for nurses helping patients and their families.

"I am glad that our robust processes and systems have done their job, the stolen funds have been recovered and we can continue to support those that most need it. We will not tolerate fraud and we will take action wherever we see it," added Mr Browell.

'A heartless crime'

King Charles III on a visit to a Macmillan Cancer Centre at University College Hospital in London
King Charles III on a visit to a Macmillan Cancer Centre at University College Hospital in London -Credit:Suzanne Plunkett - WPA Pool/Getty Image

Ashley Fairbrother, partner at Edmonds Marshall McMahon, said: "They committed a heartless crime that diverted essential resources away from those who needed them most. The message must go out to people who believe that charities are an easy target – they are not; these offences are serious, and the consequences are serious.

"Many people give their time and money to raise money for good causes, often because either they or some of their own families have experienced cancer. The effort needed to raise that money is great, and the theft of the fruits of that effort is particularly egregious."

The solicitor went on to highlight the important role of private prosecutions in providing redress for charities. "We hope that this sends a clear message on behalf of charities to those that commit crimes against them, that they will not get away with it," Mr Fairbrother added.

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