Man charged with arson accused of setting Dickinson church fire to cover up credit card theft

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Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Man accused of setting Dickinson church fire to cover up theft
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Staff were alarmed when they saw charges on the church accounts two days after they thought the credit cards and bank checks were destroyed in the fire.

DICKINSON, Texas (KTRK) -- After a nearly-two-month investigation, police say a church fire in Dickinson was set on purpose to cover up another crime.

The fire destroyed offices and classrooms at the Faith Lutheran Church at 800 FM-517 on June 2.

ORIGINAL REPORT: 2 Houston-area churches, including Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, damaged in separate fires

Now, Dickinson police say Tyrese Travon Samuel, 24, purposely started the fire because he was using stolen credit cards, bank checks and computers to gain access to the church's financial accounts.

"About two days after the fire, I got back online to start rebuilding my accounting and noticed that there were some oddities and some discrepancies in the accounting and it made me suspicious," Faith Lutheran Church member and bookkeeper Terri Foreman said.

Foreman had tried to cancel the cards and checks, assuming the fire had destroyed them. But, that's when she was informed that charges had been made to the credit card two days after the fire.

Church officials say Samuel is not affiliated with the church, so they're still trying to figure out how he was able to gain access to the cards.

Samuel is charged with forgery and arson of a place of worship. He is reportedly also charged in a similar forgery scheme out of Deer Park, police said.

He is being held in the Galveston County Jail on bonds totaling $215,000.

Crews used heavy equipment to demolish the burned rubble of the offices and classrooms on Monday.

Faith Lutheran Church cannot hold service due to the damage, and instead, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Dickinson is welcoming the displaced members, just like they did after Hurricane Harvey, Foreman said.