FORT WORTH — A Fort Worth pastor is being accused of taking an elderly war veteran's house. The pastor, however, says it's all a case of mistaken identity.
Maj. Joe Bryant and his wife, Shirley, want to live out the rest of their days in Texas Hill Country. They moved from Fort Worth, and thought it a blessing when they were told Pastor Cornelius Hudson of Bethel Temple on Lancaster Avenue wanted to rent their home in January of last year.
"It made me feel the house was going to be useful," said Shirley Bryant. "It was going to get a good person to take care of it."
The extra income was needed.
Bryant, a Vietnam War veteran, served most of his life in the military, but is now legally blind and partially deaf. They get by on Social Security and disability benefits.
But soon, they decided the man they trusted as a pastor was something else entirely.
"I'd call him a con man," Shirley Bryant said.
The Bryants say Hudson has refused to pay a dime in rent, writing only hot checks. "He was informed they were bouncing; he never would make them good," Joe Bryant said.
The couple hired an attorney and ordered Hudson out, but they said he didn't leave.
They finally got an eviction order. It is now being appealed.
But the Bryants say that's not the worst of it, as a News 8 crew discovered upon visiting the rented house.
Hudson doesn't live there. Instead, an apparent tenant told us, he's playing landlord, renting out rooms to others.
We saw holes punched in the wall; full trash bags littering a room; and damaged flooring. An overturned grocery cart filled one side of the dining room.
Upon seeing a smeared, reddish-brown substance in the entryway, News 8 asked the tenant if it was blood. She couldn't answer.
News 8 confronted Hudson with what we learned, and he denied everything.
Instead, the pastor claims, he's the victim of a con man who is stealing his identity. He points to a police report he filed about ID theft last year.
Hudson was not aware that two of the tenants had already identified his photograph with certainty, as did the Bryants' leasing agent and the next-door neighbors.
Hudson, however, doesn't budge from his story. He maintains that the Bryants and the others are lying.
News 8 checked, and found the man that Hudson is accusing does have an eviction history. In at least one case, the man claimed to be associated with a church.
The man accused by Hudson has also been convicted of forging a check from another religious organization.
But Hudson's accusers examined the other man's picture, and say there's no mistake: They were dealing with Cornelius Hudson.
"Again, I'm sorry. It's not me," Hudson maintained.
Tthis is not the first time Hudson has been accused of taking over property he won't pay for.
In 2008, the owner of a Fort Worth residence said Hudson did the same thing to him; signing a lease and writing only hot checks. He said he is certain it was Hudson he saw sign the lease, adds that the pastor moved the man Hudson now calls a "con man" into the home.
Hudson said that was another case of identity theft. A judge kicked everyone out.
In 2007, the owners of an empty Fort Worth warehouse said they were shocked to find that, Hudson and his church, Bethel Temple, forced their way into the building and used it without permission.
Hudson claims a real estate company had leased him the building, but he produced no evidence to back up that assertion. A judge evicted them.
Hudson continues to deny all claims against him, saying he's the victim of a con man. He even denies signing the court record appealing his eviction from the Bryants' home.
But, in the end, the Bryants say they are the victims, waiting for justice, as their savings dwindle.