Convicted bank robber starts his own ministry, now charged with scheme to defraud

Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – After numerous arrests and two stints in Florida State Prison, Charles Combs was tired of being the bad guy.

Combs is facing charges for robbing a bank in unincorporated Pinellas County on August 3 at a credit union in St. Petersburg a few days later. It was during that robbery, that arrest reports indicate he shot at several police officers.

“Myself and an officer were face to face, there were firearms involved. Either myself or that officer could have lost their life that day. I made a choice that day. I made the right choice not to harm that officer,” Combs said in a interview in the Pinellas County Jail. “That was the beginning of the change.”

Combs was able to post bond and started his own ministry. He called it “Sinners Prayer Ministry” and he went door to door collecting money, which he claims he would give to the homeless.

The problem is Combs didn’t have all of the required paperwork to be a licensed charity and that attracted attention.

The St. Petersburg Police Department posted pictures of the masked man on its Facebook page, warning citizens not to donate and asking them to report any illegal activity.

Last week, officers arrested Combs on a scheme to defraud charge. Combs calls his arrest bogus.

“If you read the flyer that I had, the flyer says very clearly that I am just starting this organization, that I am trying to obtain these documents. There’s no scheming to defraud here,” said Combs. “What does the community want me to do with my life? Do you want me to feed homeless people, or continue to be the so-called bad guy?”

During the interview, Combs gave our crew the name of one of the homeless men he helped. Tom Fix confirmed that Combs helped him and his girlfriend with a place to stay, but couldn’t say with any amount of certainty, where all of the money Combs was collecting was going.

One of the doors Combs knocked on was Patrick Fortunato’s. Fortunato refused to give him money and yelled at him to leave. He says something about Combs just didn’t seem right.

“Nobody does this. This isn’t how, especially now during a pandemic, you don’t go door to door asking. And, he just didn’t, I don’t know, judging the book by the cover I guess,” Fortunato adding. “I didn’t like any of it.”

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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