A picture speaks a thousand words
Church owned mall and charlatan pastor in Grand Forks exposed
by Timothy Charles Holmseth on April 24, 2015 at 4:20 P.M. CST
Time tells all tales.
Paul Knight, pastor, Hope Church, told a whopper to the Grand Forks Herald in February, 2015, when he said “our goal is to keep everyone where they are” after the church purchased the Grand Cities Mall.
The large spread in the newspaper comforted the public and case a positive light on the idea of a tax-exempt church purchasing an operating mall.
In October, 2015, the mall’s manager, Hope Church member Louis Christoffer, evicted an 81 year-old shopkeeper.
Nearly seven months have passed since David Gerszewski, 81, was told to clear out his thrift store because the mall was “losing money” and needed to immediately increase the rent from $500 to $2,000.
As of today - the store remains vacant.
Write Into Action interviewed Gerszewski in October, 2015. “They said they could rent this space out in two days (for $2,000 per month) and they are losing money,” he said.
After Write Into Action broke the story on October 14, 2015; WDAZ TV followed up on October 19 and interviewed Christoffer.
He lied. .
“It had nothing to do with anything other than pure economics. We need to make x amount to get by,” Christoffer told WDAZ.
“He was paying well below the market rate and we wanted to get him closer to that market rate. The unfortunate part of that is that it was a large increase,” Chistoffer said.
Write Into Action will continue to alert the public on future developments regarding Paul Knight's enterprise.
Grand Forks church tax- exempt status questioned
Hope Evangelical Church suspected of developing long-term business plan in Grand Cities Mall
by Timothy Charles Holmseth on October 23, 2015 at 9:38 P.M. CST
Hope Evangelical Church is a 501(c)3 religious organization located at 1601 17th Ave S, Grand Forks, North Dakota. The church is not subject to taxes.
However, the church’s tax-exempt status is being questioned.
In 2014, Hope Church formed Land of Hope LLP to purchase the Grand Cities Mall, 1726 S Washington St, Grand Forks.
The Company was formed to separate Hope Church from the rest of the mall.
The Grand Forks Herald was used for the roll-out announcement of the major purchase in February, 2015.
The public was told it was strictly an economic decision because the Church was growing; didn’t want to move; had an opportunity to purchase the entire facility; and that very little would change.
However, emerging information suggests Hope Church is conducting Church business that is not tax exempt, and is in the process of executing a strategic long-term business plan that reaches into 1726 S Washington St, Grand Forks (Grand Cities Mall).
Evidence of a business plan by the Church is emerging that shows there is a plan as follows:
THE MEDIA DECEPTION
Evidence shows the Company (Land of Hope LLP) (Hope Evangelical Church) knew exactly what they were doing when they strategically used the Grand Forks Herald to publish false information that would mislead the public about their true business plan.
In February of 2015, Paul Knight, the lead pastor at Hope Church told the Herald the Church planned to keep existing tenants where they were during and after the Church’s acquisition of the Mall.
It was not true.
The public believed it because it was written in the Herald.
But nothing could have been further from the truth.
Knight told the Herald the following.
"The goal really isn't to be mall managers, the goal is to be a church”
Evidence shows the actual goal was to create a facade with an LLP.
Then - under legal cover of the facade - Hope Evangelical Church used the traffic and market of an existing mall to springboard and develop Hope Church and 'for-profit' businesses affiliated with Hope Church, while pushing out non-affiliated businesses.
Knight’s professed desire to be a church; but not mall managers; is easily exposed as a clever deception and play on semantics by the very next thing Hope Church did (and/or did not do).
MALL MANAGER IS HOPE CHURCH MEMBER AND LOYALIST
Hope Church did not hire an outside management firm or person that was independent of the Church to manage the Grand Cities Mall. Rather, the Church (Land of Hope LLC) hired Louis Christoffer, a devout Hope Church member to manage the mall.
There is no arguing that Christoffer is subject to the influence and control of Knight and the Church; well beyond the obvious fact he is on their payroll.
Christoffer published a photograph on his Facebook page that showed Knight baptizing him in a full body tank. Louis also appears in a You Tube video that shows him with Hope Church members all together on a bus singing.
The baptism and group bus video pre-dates Christoffer appearing on the scene as mall manager.
Knight told the Herald in February, 2015 that a separate limited liability company (Land of Hope LLP) was formed to oversee the mall, so the part of the building that's not a church will not be tax-exempt.
That’s relevant, because it shows Knight understood all the legalities of the situation, and clearly attempted to say all the right things during the strategically planned press release to the Herald.
Knight knew the Church was required to be legally separated from the businesses inside the larger part of the mall in order for the Church to remain a 501(c)3.
But – Knight also told the Herald the following.
"We want to have space to expand as a church.”
The key words in Knight’s statement are “space” “expand” and “church”.
Knight publically admitted that Hope Church planned to expand itself beyond its present location and sanctuary, and move further out into the mall.
And that’s exactly what they did.
OLD BUSINESSES WOULD BE DRIVEN OUT BY MALL MANAGEMENT
Write Into Action has learned that behind the scenes, adverse actions began to be taken against various tenants within the mall after the Church took over. Businesses began to be targeted for harassment and intimidation by Christoffer and the project manager, Al Maloney.
David Gerszewski, owner, Precious Metal Gold and Silver Exchange, is one business owner that went public when the Church began to drive him out of business.
Write Into Action is withholding the names of some of the individuals interviewed due to their fear of retaliation as these matters unfold.
Gerszewski said Christoffer would repeatedly remind him he was a police officer for ten years.
Christoffer told Gerszewski he owed back-rent of $1,000. Gerszewski said he did not owe the money. He explained it was rent that the prior mall manger agreed he would not have to pay, after Gerszewski was required to begrudgingly re-locate his store, which cost him revenue in down-time due to moving.
“They’re just coming up with ways to demand money,” Gerszewski said.
The tactic described by Gerszewski was confirmed by other sources.
According to sources, Christoffer and Maloney were going to other existing business owners and demanding money in the form of back-rent that Christoffer claimed the businesses owed from a time before Hope Church purchased or operated the Mall.
In one instance, Christoffer was demanding at least two months rent from a tenant that said he/she did not owe the money due to an agreement with prior management.
Other tactics were being used by mall management to drive out existing tenants, as well.
Until very recently, REM of North Dakota, a vocational service for people with special needs, was located at 1726 S. Washington Street, STE 70 (Grand Cities Mall).
That address is now occupied by Women’s Pregnancy Center – A Place of Hope. Sources tell Write Into Action that Women’s Pregnancy Center – A Place of Hope, was set up by a member of Hope Church.
Sources also tell Write Into Action that REM of North Dakota was pushed out over a rent increase by mall management.
Write Into Action, as well WDAZ TV, recently produced stories regarding Land of Hope LLP increasing the rent of Gerszewski from $500 per month to $2,000 per month. The controversial rent increase resulted in Gerszewski being forced out of business, after 18 years in the mall, at an estimated business loss of $20,000.
Gerszewski said his losses were exasperated by the fact that he had relied upon good-faith assurances made by Knight to the Herald, which gave him confidence to expand his inventory and purchase $8,000 in additional shelving for his store.
Gerszewski said he took his concerns to Knight and told him what the Church was doing was “not very Christian”. He said Knight responded with a “chuckle” and said that it had “nothing do with the church”.
Knight’s narcissistic response to Gerszewski borders on sociopathic.
Only seven months prior, Knight, the lead pastor at Hope Church, was the Church’s spokesman to the media on the acquisition of the Mall. He gave an interview to the Herald in February, 2015 and posed for a large photo.
During the roll-out, Knight claimed to have all the facts and was the spokesman for the entire Church. "We might do some rearranging with some of the nonpermanent tenants, but our goal is to keep everybody where they are," Knight said.
He was lying.
Seven months later, when confronted, Knight chuckled and said everything being done to Gerszewski had nothing to do with the church.
Knight’s statements to the Herald in February, 2015 appear to have been an attempt to prevent public and legal scrutiny of Hope Church’s plans to develop businesses within the Grand Cities Mall while still operating Hope Church as a 501(c)3.
THE “HOPE” FORMAT
In addition to Women’s Pregnancy Center – A Place of Hope, there are other tenants featuring the word “Hope” amongst their nomenclature and logos.
While the Women’s Pregnancy Center is a non-profit Corporation, some of the businesses are not tax-exempt.
People Barbers has a sign in the rear of the shop that says “Family – Hope – Friends”. However, a promotional You Tube video uploaded in June, 2009 promoting the barber shop does not appear to show the message on the wall using the word “Hope”.
Renewed Hope Chiropractic, which is also located in the mall, features the word “Hope” on its nomenclature. The business logo for the chiropractor features a cross running through the words.
HOPE EVANGELICAL CHURCH IS THE MALLS’S (REAL) HEADQUARTERS AND MAIN OFFICE
Hope Church and the Grand Cities Mall office are both located within the Mall and both have entries inside the mall.
Gerszewski said the mall manager, and their project manager, go in and out of Hope Church on a regular basis.
“If they’re going to manage the mall, that’s one thing. But this running over there and seeing if it’s okay – that’s another thing altogether,” Gerszewski said.
Gerszewski said he witnesses Christoffer and Maloney enter the church regularly. “I see these guys; they’re going into the church there all the time. They’ve got a path worn out,” Gerszewski said.
Increasing media coverage of elderly merchant physically threatened by Hope Church employee leads to anonymous attacks online
by Timothy Charles Holmseth on October 20, 2015 at 11:26 P.M. CST
The Grand Forks merchant that ran afoul of Hope Evangelical Church at the Grand Cities Mall is now facing anonymous online gangster tactics.
On October 19, the same day WDAZ traveled to Grand Cities Mall to cover the story Write Into Action broke on October 12 regarding 81 year-old David Gerszewski, a store owner being harassed and threatened by Hope Church mall employees; attacks began to be made against him online.
The WDAZ news report featured an interview with mall manager Louis Christoffer, the former Grand Forks Police officer that Gerszewski says was present when he was physically threatened by Al Maloney, another mall employee of Hope Church.
Later that day Gerszewski came under vicious attack on the Web.
An anonymous poster using the name “Sarah” went onto the Web publication Focus on the Forks (satellite site of Write Into Action) and attempted to besmirch Gerszewski’s character.
“The gold and silver exchange guy? Mean, mean, mean, mean,” the person said.
The anonymous person, claiming to be a mother, said Gerszewski called her child a “brat” one day while she was in the store.
“I brought my baby in there the one time I went in, and he told me, "If your brat breaks anything, you have to pay for it!" My "brat" couldn't even reach the shelves and hadn't made a peep!” the person said.
The anonymous person refuses to give their name for this story.
There are indicators the anonymous person is not a female/mother; is associated with Hope Church; understand business and contracts; and has a financial interest in the situation.
“Previous management? Offered a sizable severance package with non-compete clause the day the old mall management signed over to Hope. They opened up the application process to many people; not their fault that the most qualified applicants were members of their church, which makes up a substantial percentage of the community,” the person said.
“As far as Louis, you've obviously never met the guy, as he's one of the nicest guys out there. Same with Paul Knight. The shop owner is just trying to destroy a reputation on his way out the door. And you, as an obviously dishonest so-called journalist, are obviously in it for the slander. Everything you posted about the church, the accused staff, etc, was ALL hearsay from a disgruntled old man.” the person said.
But the anonymous person's assertions were false.
Louis Christoffer, Paul Knight, and the entire Hope Church staff were contacted by Write Into Action and given an opportunity to comment. They were even told their comments would be copied and pasted directly into the story. All failed to respond except Knight, who wanted to have an in-person “meeting” with mall management and Write Into Action.
Other evidence exists that indicates the person claiming to be a mother of a baby that was mistreated by Gerszewski is lying.
DAVID GERSZEWSKI’S INTERACTION WITH A BABY AND IT’S MOTHER
Write Into Action (Timothy Charles Holmseth) was recently in Gerszewski’s store to conduct an interview and take photographs.
I (Timothy Holmseth) observed Gerszewski bending down, talking softly and gently to a four month-old baby in a stroller.
It became a memorable event.
During the interaction, as Gerszewski attempted to make the baby smile, the child’s mother told Gerszewski that the child was so advanced that it would always physically look to its mother for actual approval, before ever smiling at a stranger.
The mother then demonstrated the adorable truth by telling her baby “it’s okay”- the baby then immediately turned to Gerszewski and smiled and everybody laughed in great amazement.
Gerszewski’s genuine heart-felt love and caring for small children was abundantly clear to every single person in the room and totally inconsistent with the tale told by the anonymous “Sarah”.
Gerszewski’s granddaughter, Amanda Gerszewski, has been supporting her grandfather on Facebook and has concerns about his health. “He called me the day he got his eviction notice, never in my life have I heard him so upset/hurt/belittled. He even had to take two of his nitro pills to calm him down,” she said.
Kenneth Robinson, a friend of Gerszewski from Montana, described his character. “Dave is one of the most truthful and honest men I know.”
Lawyer brought into Hope Church intimidation case at Grand Cities Mall
by Timothy Charles Holmseth on October 18, 2015 at 8:23 A.M. CST
The shop-keeper that says he was physically threatened by Hope Church employees for talking about why he was leaving the Grand Cities Mall has been talking again.
This time to a lawyer.
Write Into Action has learned from multiple sources that David Gerszewski, the 81 year-old owner of Precious Metal Gold and Silver Exchange, was the victim of a plan to force him out of the mall without the public ever knowing the real reason.
The plan was implemented almost immediately after Louis Christoffer, a member of Hope Evangelical Church was hired as the mall manager.
Christoffer is a former Grand Forks Police Officer and allegedly touted that fact as mall manager, while being involved in incidents where there were threats of physical violence; misrepresentation of facts; and he even authored a bogus legal letter with intent to deceive.
Gerszewski was told in August, 2015, that his rent was being increased from $500 per month to $2,000. He said was told they could rent his unit out in “two days” at the rate of $2,000 per month and were “losing money”.
Gerszewski said he could not afford such a dramatic increase and asked if he could rent a smaller unit that was sitting empty but was told “no” – he could not occupy any unit in the mall whatsoever.
"They said they had a list 'this long' of people that wanted to rent that store," Gerszewski said, pointing to a unit in the mall while making an expanding gesture with his hands. "Now there just putting Halloween decorations up in there. Nobody's renting it," he said.
“I asked them if there was any other reason I should know about that they wanted me to leave. They told me ‘no’”. Gerszewski said.
According to multiple sources that is not true.
Write Into Action is investigating the alleged true facts behind the actual reason Gerszewski’s business has been targeted.
Meanwhile, Gerszewski said he has consulted an attorney regarding the eviction letter he was given by Christoffer.
Gerszewski said it was good news. “Only a judge can evict me. They can’t change my locks. They can’t seize my property,” he said.
Christoffer gave Gerszewski the eviction letter on October 6, 2015, that said the Lease signed August 20, 2015, was “terminated”.
“The lawyer said they have no authority to do that. Only a judge can do that,” Gerszewski said.
Emerging facts and circumstances reveal that even the Lease is being legally questioned and may have been signed under coercion or duress.
“It had to be right now – right now – right now,” Gerszewski said, explaining that Christoffer and another Hope Church employee, Al Maloney, applied high-pressure tactics against him and would not let him think or examine his situation.
At one point, according to Gerszewski, the situation actually escalated to threats of physical violence. Gerszewski said Maloney pointed his finger in his face and threatened to physically throw him out of the mall if he heard any more things going around that he didn’t like.
Gerszewski said at one point he became so upset he thought he was going to have a heart-attack.
Write Into Action continues to investigate.
Write Into Action Investigation: Motivation behind targeting of elderly shop-keeper by Hope Church identified
by Timothy Charles Holmseth on October 17, 2015 at 10:05 A.M. CST
Today the Grand Forks Herald published ‘Under new ownership, Grand Cities Mall has fresh coat of paint; more changes to come’.
The Herald article appears to be a public relations response to stories published by Write Action on October 12, and October 16, regarding the ongoing bullying and threats of violence by Hope Church staff members against an 81 year-old shop-keeper at the Grand Cities Mall.
David Gerszewski, owner, Precious Metals Gold and Silver Exchange, was constructively evicted in August after his rent was abruptly increased from $500 to $2,000 a month.
Gerszewski's store has been in the mall for 18 years and he presently employees one person to help out around the store.
The Herald article provides a glowing review of the mall's future plans for a family focused environment and children-oriented activities that include a playground in the middle of the mall.
The aggressive and illegal acts (threats) involved the mall manager, Louis Christoffer, a former police officer with the Grand Forks Police Department.
Gerszewski said Christoffer mentioned the fact he was a former police officer every time they talked.
Write Into Action is investigating credible information that reveals the true and hidden reason behind the sanctioned and unlawful course of action taken against David Gerszewski, owner, Precious Metals Gold and Silver Exchange.
Grand Cities Mall merchant physically threatened by Hope Church staff
Grand Forks Police Department not involved with actions of former officer
by Timothy Charles Holmseth on October 16, 2015 at 9:30 A.M. CST
An 81 year-old shop-keeper at the Grand Cities Mall in Grand Forks says he was physically threatened by two staffers of Hope Church during attempts by mall management to quell rumors about a store closing.
David Gerszewski, owner, Precious Metals Gold & Silver Exchange, said he was threatened with violence by Al Maloney, a maintenance worker at the mall.
He said Louis Christoffer, mall manager, was present when the threat occurred.
According to Gerszewski, Christoffer and Maloney were angry about things they believed he was telling people regarding his upcoming departure from the mall.
Gerszewski said Christoffer told him that he had learned from “reliable sources” that Gerszewski was telling people he had been “kicked out”. Gerszewski said he did not tell anybody any such thing. Rather, he said, he told people his rent had been increased from $500 per month to $2,000 per month and he could not afford to stay.
“[Al Maloney] got right up in my face and pointed his finger,” Gerszewski said.
He said Maloney threatened him.
“If I ever hear that happens again, I’m going to physically throw you out. That’s exactly what he said to me. Louis Christoffer was standing right there,” Gerszewski said.
Gerszewski said he had several conversations with Christoffer about the subject of his store closing and assured him he was not telling anybody that he had been kicked out. He said Christoffer would not believe him and reminded him he was a “police officer for ten years” and said he “knows what’s going on”.
“Every gall damn time I met with him he told me he used to be a police officer for ten years. Who gives a [expletive] if he’s been a police officer, or a doctor, or whatever,” Gerszewski said.
According to Lt. Derik Zimmel, Grand Fork Police Department, Christoffer “is not presently employed by the GFPD, nor is he presently authorized to act as an agent of the GFPD. He is affiliated with the GFPD as a former employee.”
Gerszewski was baffled that Christoffer would not believe him on the main point of contention.
Gerszewski said he asked Christoffer, “Are you calling me a liar?”
“Yes,” Gerszewski said Christoffer replied.
“I told him ‘you’re a liar and that whole damn outfit you’re working for are liars,’” Gerszewski said.
Paul Knight, lead pastor, Hope Church, was contacted for comment regarding both stories by Write Into Action regarding this matter. Knight requested an organized meeting with mall management in both instances.
Louis Christoffer was contacted but no response was received before publication.
Write Into Action will continue to monitor this developing story.
Hope Church evicts elderly Grand Cities Mall merchant after 18 years over money and ‘rumors’
Legalities, ethics, and core principles being questioned in Hope Church business endeavor
by Timothy Charles Holmseth on October 12, 2015 at 11:09 P.M. CST
Dave Gerszewski, 81, is being kicked out of the Grand Cities Mall by Hope Church over money and rumors.
Gerszewski has owned and operated Precious Metals Gold & Silver Exchange at the mall in Grand Forks for 18 years.
On October 6, 2015, Gerszewski was given a letter of eviction and told to be out within 30 days or all his property would belong to the owners of the mall.
According to Gerszewski, the trouble started when mall management increased his rent from $500 to $2,000. “They said they could rent this space out in two days (for $2,000 per month) and they are losing money,” he said.
Gerszewski said he could not meet the dramatic rent increase, and a written lease was subsequently drafted for him to continue paying $500 per month until November, 2015; he would then be completely moved out by November 30.
But that agreement changed on October 6 when the mall manager, Louis Christoffer, gave Gerszewski a letter that unilaterally declared:
Gerszewski said he believed this was the second time the mall owners had arbitrarily violated a legal agreement or good faith assurance.
Gerszewski said he asked Christoffer what shoppers and tenants he was referencing in his letter but Christoffer wouldn’t tell him.
“My customers were asking me why I was closing and I told them I couldn’t afford the rent so I had to leave. I had to tell the customers something when they asked. I told people the truth. I think that is what made them (management) mad,” Gerszewski said.
Gerszewski said he has always had a good relationship with the other tenants at the mall – he doesn’t believe Christoffer - and feels what is taking place is wrong and very questionable.
Gerszewski said he invested $8,000 into new shelving and increased his inventory after Pastor Paul Knight, Hope Church, told the Grand Forks Herald that no major changes were going to take place as the transition of mall ownership went into effect.
In February, 2015, Knight told the Herald that Hope Church “will expand into some empty spaces, and businesses with month-to-month leases may be moved within the mall to accommodate new businesses. Long-term plans for the mall still have to be ironed out”.
Knight also told the Herald, "We might do some rearranging with some of the nonpermanent tenants, but our goal is to keep everybody where they are.”
Gerszewski said he relied upon that published information when he invested thousands of dollars into his business, and projects he is now going to lose about $20,000 because there is no way he can liquidate his inventory in such a small amount of time.
“I’m going to donate a lot of my inventory to the St. Michael’s Catholic School,” he said.
Gerszewski said he spoke with Knight about the situation to express his concerns. “I told the pastor what was going on and I told him it’s “not very Christian” and he just chuckled. He said it has nothing to do with the Church”.
“NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CHURCH”
In the February, 2015 article in the Herald, Knight said, "The goal really isn't to be mall managers; the goal is to be a church”.
“A separate limited liability company has been formed to oversee the mall, so the part of the building that's not a church will not be tax-exempt, Knight said. Current mall management will stay in place for now,” the Herald reported.
Knight’s statements in the Herald appear to create the impression that efforts have been taken to separate Hope Church from the day-to-day business management of the Mall.
But a careful assessment of documents shows something different and indicates Knight is in charge of everything.
The Limited liability Company (LLC) that oversees the mall is Land of Hope LLC., and was filed with the North Dakota Secretary of State on October 3, 2014.
The Registered Agent for the LLC is Keith Becker, associate pastor, Hope Church.
The Church voted to proceed with the sale on February 10, 2015, which was then announced the next day in the Herald.
While the Herald reported in February, 2015 that “current mall management will stay in place for now” it does not specifically identify the managers.
However, by October, 2015, documents show it was all being run by individuals at Hope Church. If there was a change after the February 15 article in the Herald it is not known when that change took place.
The LLC that is now mall management had been in place since October, 2014, which is something Knight knew when he was interviewed by the Herald in February, 2015.
It is not known why Knight and the Herald were vague about the mall's management.
On October 10, 2015 Write Into Action emailed Knight and the Hope Church elders regarding the situation with Gerszewski.
“I would be very willing to meet with you and the mall management regarding this story,” Knight said.
Write Into Action replied and asked Knight for the contact information for the mall’s management.
Knight did not respond again.
Perhaps that’s because in all reality; Knight is the mall management.
Documents obtained by Write Into Action, which include a Lease and Eviction Letter, confirm that the mall manager is Louis Christoffer.
On the Facebook page of Louis Christoffer is a photo of Knight, along with a link to the February, 2015 Herald story announcing “Hope Church to Buy Grand Cities Mall”.
“I am blessed and proud to be part of a church who is willing to step out of the boat and trust in God!!,” Christoffer commented above the photo.
Another photo on Christoffer’s Facebook page shows Knight baptizing Christoffer in a tank.
GRAND FORKS POLICE DEPARTMENT
Gerszewski said when talked to Christoffer about the alleged rumors going around the mall, he (Gerszewski) assured Christoffer he’d never said the things Christoffer was alleging.
“He told me he’s been a police officer for many years and he knows what’s going on,” Gerszewski said.
The continued mentioning of police by Christoffer bothered Gerszewski.
“He keeps bringing up that this police officer thing. I don’t care if he has been police officer,” Gerszewski said.
Various articles by the Herald and Valley News refer to Grand Forks Police officer Louis Christoffer.
PASTOR PAUL KNIGHT
Documents show the Grand Cities Mall is overseen by Land of Hope LLC, which is registered with the State of North Dakota to Keith Becker, associate pastor, Hope Church.
The letterhead on the eviction notice letter given to Gerszewski is Land of Hope LLC., and signed by Louis Christoffer, mall manager, Hope Church.
Paul Knight is the pastor of Hope Church.
Write Into Action will continue to monitor this developing story.