LUFKIN, Texas — An East Texas minister and his family have been convicted of using hurricane relief funds to pay off personal expenses and fund operations of a 40-member Jasper church.
Walter and Rosie Diggles and their adult daughter, Anita Diggles, were all found guilty Thursday of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Walter Diggles also was convicted of two counts of theft of federal funds, 11 counts of wire fraud and three of money laundering. Rosie Diggles also was convicted of 10 counts of wire fraud and one of money laundering.
U.S. District Judge Ron Clark will determine the family’s sentences.
Walter Diggles is a former executive director of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments and was a “registered agent” of the Deep East Texas Foundation, a nonprofit that continued to operate after Texas forfeited its charter in 2007.
According to trial evidence, he defrauded federal authorities by inflating the amount his foundation needed for social service programs. He received about $4.4 million from 2007 to 2012 through federal Social Services Block Grant funds. Of that, $1.3 million was spent on personal expenses, such as transportation, funeral expenses and church rent.
Prosecutors said members of the Lighthouse Church operated an after-school program, and that Rosie and Anita Diggles prepared documents and reimbursement packets to request funds in support of the learning center.