Group home employees used dead woman’s food stamps, Lee County investigators say

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SANFORD, N.C. (WNCN) — A rehab home for women was searched by Lee County investigators after a woman claimed those inside the home were being mistreated, court documents show.

On Dec. 8, 2018, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said it received a report of a missing person from 257 Lakeview Drive in Sanford. Approximately two hours later, the missing woman showed up at the sheriff’s office and told investigators she was a client at the Alive Again Ministries located at the Lakeview Drive address.

Alive Again’s website says it’s a Christian organization that aims to help women 18-28 that “suffer from addiction and self-harming behaviors.” The group “operates a beautiful home serving 12 girls at any one-time.”

David Cummings, of Sanford, is listed as the President of Alive Again.

On Dec. 9, investigators took the woman back to the home to gather belongings. They were approached by three other females who said they wanted to leave because they were concerned for their safety.

The women told investigators they were mistreated by facility staff and were aware of sexual conduct between another client and David Cummings’s son, Brian Cummings.

Brian Cummings, 26, has since been charged with sexual activity by a custodian.

They also stated they were aware of past clients’ EBT cards — commonly referred to as food stamps — being used by employees of the ministry who were not authorized to use the cards.

One woman said she was directed to use the card of Stephanie Marsh, a former client at Alive Again Ministries who was run over and killed on N.C.-87 in October. Police reports show Marsh appeared to have laid down in the road prior to being run over by two drivers.

Investigators confirmed the use of Marsh’s card on a date after her death.

Kalissa Levengood is a former client of Alive Again Ministries and used to live inside the Sanford home. She said she was a struggling heroin addict and went to the home after her mother – who was looking for a place based on Christ-centered values – found it on the internet.

“It was like a cult,” Levengood said. “Nothing surprises me with the people who were running that place. It just makes me sick they were using her card for their benefit.”

Levengood explained her lack of surprise came from the things she witnessed and experienced inside the home. She said the longer she was there, the more employees reduced the amount of time she could speak with her family – until, eventually, she couldn’t contact them at all.

“I was brainwashed, really. There were times when I felt like a caged animal. There was always someone watching what I did. They took my phone and all communication away from me to the point where I only had them and had no choice but to stay.”

The communication cut-off wasn’t all Levengood said happened inside the Sanford home. Alive Again’s website lists exercise as one of the treatments used to help the women overcome addiction. Levengood said they did exercise every day, but if they were walking in the neighborhood, they weren’t allowed to tell anyone who they were or why they were there.

“They told us nobody knew that we were there and if they found out we’d have to move,” Levengood said. “We had to say that [the program director] was our mom, that she was taking care of us and we were all her adoptive daughters. There were different girls from different races and we were all supposed to call this woman ‘mom’.”

Levengood said she, too, was told she had to apply for food stamps, as well as welfare. She said she was only able to keep $80 per month for snacks, while the welfare money went to “rent”, and was never able to keep her food stamp card.

Lee County investigators had a similar claim from one of the women. They wrote in the search warrant request that control of the women’s EBT cards would transfer between several people, including David Cummings, Brian Cummings and program director Bree Clow.

Investigators say statements from several of the women indicated the EBT cards, state identifications, passports and other personal documents were kept in a locked container inside David Cummings’ home.

For Levengood, she’s thankful for the sobriety she gained in the program, but she said the memories made inside the home will stay with her.

“I always felt stuck until the day I was able to get out and get home and see the world for what it really is and see what they were doing for years,” Levengood said. “What they were doing was conning everybody to think they were a place trying to give us help, but the tactics they used and the shady things they did don’t make that OK.”

CBS17 attempted to speak with David Cummings by going to his home, but he refused to talk. We also stopped by the Alive Again Ministries address, but found a lockbox on the door and no furniture inside.

We reached out to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to find out if Alive Again has shut down, but have not heard back.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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