Sheriff’s detective honored for helping bust theft ring that ripped off 36 Fayette churches


A local detective was recognized by a Fayetteville civic group for his work on a major case that victimized three dozen churches across the county.

Post 105 of the American Legion presented Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Detective David Tortorello with the Public Safety Recognition Award during an April 10 ceremony, according to a post on the FCSO’s Facebook page.

Officials said the award was tied to “Detective Tortorello’s tireless efforts and persistence” during an investigation that took a year and a half regarding a criminal organization based in Houston that is accused of taking just over $162,000 from 36 Fayette County churches.

The Citizen reported last November that the ring of thieves stole checks from about 250 churches across 14 states and made off with a total of $1.5 million.

The FCSO investigation ultimately identified 17 suspects, who drove from Texas to various locations and stole checks from church mailboxes during the COVID-19 pandemic, when fewer people were attending church and more were sending their charitable contributions through the mail. Members of the ring would then return to Texas and deposit the checks into their accounts.

All of those who have been arrested and held without bond, charged with RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act violations along with identity fraud and exploiting the elderly.