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Four suspected of bilking a church are arrested in K.G.

RELATED: See more crime news from the Fredericksburg region

BY KEITH EPPS / THE FREE LANCE–STAR

Thanks largely to an alert church member, four people suspected of conning King George County churches out of money were arrested Thursday, police said.

King George Sheriff Steve Dempsey said the arrests occurred outside Two Rivers Baptist Church on State Route 3.

The incident began at the end of a Wednesday night service when a woman walked in and requested help in paying her rent.

Dempsey said the woman told church officials that she was about to be evicted and needed a relatively small amount of money. She was told that the church wouldn’t give her money directly but would be willing to talk with her landlord.

The woman gave a name of a man and an address on James Madison Parkway in King George. The man was called, and arrangements were made for him to come to the church at 10 a.m. Thursday to pick up the money.

Meanwhile, a woman from the church did an Internet search using the name that had been provided. She found a news article from last year in which the man, Joseph Harold Artz, had been arrested along with his wife for stealing Easter Seal jars from a CVS pharmacy in Culpeper. The woman became more suspicious after checking the address of the rental that was provided and learned that it did not exist.

“She did an excellent job,” Dempsey said of the church member.

The Sheriff’s Office was called, and detectives Jimmy Simmons and Mike Thompson were waiting near the church Thursday morning. A 2001 maroon Saturn with four people in it showed up and, after $40 was given to a man who went into the church, detectives arrested all four.

Artz, 42, Jennifer Marie Harrison, 38, David Lee Frazier, 52, and Donna Sue Frazier, 47, all of Warrenton, were charged with obtaining money by false pretenses and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Dempsey said the subsequent investigation showed that the group had been going to churches daily to get money to pay for drugs and other needs. They had been to four other churches in King George alone on Wednesday; it was not immediately clear if they’d gotten money from any of them.

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404

kepps@freelancestar.com

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