Holy Hustler

Pastor Spann will save Liberty City's soul one addict at a time — if he can stay out of jail.

As he was figuring all of this out, his first two sons fell prey to demons. Vincent Jr. served a year in prison for peddling coke and then was sent up for three years for an inexplicable crime — breaking into an Overtown home to steal a jar of change and a pair of gloves.

Another son, Christopher, had become a six-foot, 300-pound thug often busted for petty theft, Spann says. In February 2003, at age 19, Christopher and a friend armed with a .45-caliber pistol attempted to carjack a woman who turned out to be a probation officer — a foolhardy caper uncannily similar to his father's Army crime. The teen was sentenced to more than five years in prison.

Spann has no guilt over his sons' troubles. "The street," he says, an invincible entity, claimed them. He adds that he set up the recently released Vincent Jr. with a job at a barbershop. And although he doesn't visit Christopher in jail, he says: "I send him money in his account, and I write him. I give him fatherly advice. I tell him you have to live with the consequences of your actions."

Pastor Vincent Spann sings to his congregation
Jacqueline Carini
Pastor Vincent Spann sings to his congregation
Jacqueline Carini

Fannie and Alton Lindsey are folk of Vincent Spann's ilk. The Miami Lakes couple are devout Baptists in their 60s. Alton is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a bad heart that has required multiple surgeries.

Their common ground allowed Spann to prey upon them, Fannie says. "I'm hurt because he's a preacher," she says while sitting in her sparsely decorated, immaculate living room. "He goes around carrying a Bible. He uses the name of the Lord."

In May 2006, Hurricane Wilma damaged the floor of the Lindseys' house. Looking for a repairman, Fannie found Spic & Spann's listing in the phone book, advertising the business as licensed and insured.

Spann showed her photos of skillfully completed past jobs and gave her a dirt-cheap estimate: $2,000 for all the repairs. She had expected to pay at least $7,000. When the holy leader told her his workers were all "deacons and ministers" at his church, it sealed the deal.

But when six of Spann's men showed up the next day, they didn't look like deacons. They were ragged, tired-looking, and strangely ravenous, stealing cake and sodas from the fridge, she says. Worse, they seemed completely untrained and damaged more than they fixed. She produces photos documenting their disastrous results: haphazardly laid tiles, globs of plaster splattered on previously clean walls, an expensive chest of drawers clumsily damaged. They poured excess grout into the gutters behind her house, clogging the plumbing. That mistake was made obscene when one of the workers filled her toilet with "boo-boo galore," she laments.

Spann was present only by phone. By the time his workers left, they had done $11,000 worth of damage, according to one estimate.

The pastor admits he used his rehabbing addicts to do the Lindseys' floors but insists that the homeowners refused his offer to correctly re-lay the tile.

Spann, however, has been unable to ignore the Lindseys' claim, as he has done with so many lawsuits before. Because he fraudulently advertised his company as licensed, prosecutors in 2007 charged him with third-degree grand theft — a felony — for taking the Lindseys' money.

After Fannie testified in court about the shoddy work, Spann pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to three years' probation instead of the possible five years in prison, with a caveat — $11,000 in damages to be paid to the Lindseys by 2010.

True to form, Spann hasn't kept pace with the payments. Fannie says she has received $3,500 — half of what she should have by now — and gets a check only when she calls Spann's probation officer to complain.

In December, prosecutors called Spann to Judge William Thomas' downtown Miami courtroom and urged he be sent to jail for nonpayment. But Thomas let Spann remain free, over Fannie Lindsey's irate protests, while sternly reminding him that the debt must be paid. The consummate showman did the judge one better, promising him he will have it squared away within three months.

"That's how I am," he says simply as he strode back onto the street, banishing bewilderment as to why he would make such a pledge. "Besides, if I don't pay it in three months, I'll still have until 2010, right?"

Spann doesn't believe he'll be sent to jail. After all, he's doing God's work. The judge, he said, set the "stage for a miracle."

"At any moment, the bank could force me out [of the ministry]," he declared back in the makeshift office of his scavenged property, where magazine photos of Bentleys are taped to concrete walls. "At any moment, Florida Power & Light could cut off the electricity. This could all come crashing down tomorrow. It used to drive me crazy, but I don't worry about it anymore. The worst that could happen is the worst that could happen, and it hasn't."

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