NY attorney general investigating fake nun linked to Brooklyn 'church' with violent past

New York's attorney general is on the trail of a fake nun who dons a habit and cross to solicit donations for a phony church with a violent past.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office said it issued subpoenas Monday in the case of Mindy LeGrand, 54, who was photographed by the New York Post on July 17 panhandling in Manhattan's Little Italy neighborhood. She then removed her habit and took the subway to Brooklyn.

According to the Post, the impostor told some donors that she was collecting money for an upstate New York orphanage and others that she was collecting "for the homeless." She said she was an Episcopal nun, but the Episcopal Church has never heard of her.

LeGrand actually is part of an unaccredited church that has operated at least since the 1970s, when founder Devernon LeGrand kept a stable of phony nuns who were sent out to beg. According to the Post, she is his daughter-in-law.

Devernon LeGrand and a son, Noconda LeGrand, were convicted in 1975 of raping a young woman in the four-story Brooklyn building that houses the LeGrand family and the church, then called St. John's Pentecostal Church of Our Lord.

The church founder was convicted in 1977 of murdering two teenage sisters in the same building to keep them from testifying in the rape case. He also was convicted of murdering his wife in 1970. He died in prison in 2006. Noconda LeGrand was released from prison in 1980 and runs the church now.

No one answered the phone Tuesday at the building that still houses the putative church, which the LeGrands now call St. Joseph's.

A spokesman for Cuomo said he could not provide details of the investigation into the LeGrands' operation. But the office has a record of targeting phony charities.

Cuomo sued the formerly ubiquitous United Homeless Organization, which used to collect money in big plastic jars, in 2009.

Investigators said most of the money the group collected did not, in fact, go to help the homeless but was pocketed by workers and the group's founders.

A judge ordered the organization to stop collecting money last winter. Last month she granted a motion to dissolve the group after it failed to respond to the lawsuit.

Cuomo, a Democrat and the son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, is running for governor.