Thieves impersonating Huntsville priest scam parishioners out of $14,000 | Huntsville

Fr. Joy Thomas Nellissery is the latest spiritual leader in Madison County to be impersonated by a scammer asking worshippers for money.

He is the pastor of St. Mary Church of the Visitation in downtown Huntsville, and he said someone sent parishoners an email pretending to be him and asking for gift cards.

“People fall into that, thinking it’s a genuine case,” Nellissery said.

But Nellissery said despite what the sender line says, these emails are not from him.

“People are seeing the name and responding and sending the $1,000 Amazon cards, eBay cards, iTunes cards, without knowing this was a scam,” said Nellissery.

Fourteen parishioners at St. Mary’s were fooled.

But Nellissery said his parish — and Catholics as a whole — aren’t the only victims.

“It’s not just unique to any one particular community but it’s happening nationally everywhere,” said Nellissery.

And these bogus emails aren’t the only way scammers are preying on the holy.

“The pastor’s voice was completely morphed and people got voice messages,” said Nellissery.

Nellissery said scammers are now taking advantage of Covid-19 safety measures too, using the priest’s voice from mass livestreams to manipulate a message asking for cash.

Nellissery’s advice is to call the parish office or ask him after mass if you get an email that’s asking for money. Because, odds are, it isn’t really from him.

“Verify before spending money on it,” said Nellissery. “Your generosity is being scammed.”

Nellissery said in some cases, victims were able to get their money back. But in others, these prayerful people are out of luck.

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