A retired Russian general who raises money to send Bibles to Russian soldiers by telling the story of his battlefield conversion now stands accused of violating the Seventh Commandment: Thou shalt not steal.
Vyacheslav Ivanovich Borisov was arrested Wednesday in Paducah, Ky., and charged with shoplifting $54.97 worth of hair gel, shampoo and cologne just hours before he was scheduled to speak at a church there on behalf of Revival Fires International, a West Branson, Mo., evangelist organization.
A Nov. 22 Belleville News-Democrat article discussed the problems in proving Borisov's claims about his war record after his appearance at a metro-east church a week earlier.
According to Paducah Police reports, Borisov gave his name as Soava Ivonof and was released Wednesday after Jon Todd, son of Revival Fires founder Cecil Todd, posted $200 bond.
``This is the biggest mistake of my life,'' Borisov told police. ``This is the end of my life.''
On Friday, Cecil Todd said it was all a misunderstanding.
``He never intended to go out of that store without paying for those items,'' he said. ``Jon was there and tried to explain this, but they were determined to make him a victim.''
Jon Todd had left the T.J. Maxx store and returned to the van that he, Borisov and a translator travel in when Borisov realized he didn't have enough money with him to buy the items he had picked up, Cecil Todd said.
Borisov then went to the door of the store and tried to get Jon Todd's attention in the parking lot to ask him to bring some money.
Cecil Todd disputes the store security guard's statement that Borisov left the store.
``We've got three witnesses to say he never left the building,'' Cecil Todd said. ``We're talking about $50 worth of items and one security person's word against three persons. It's unfair for this man to be treated this way.''
Jon Todd and the translator attended the church service Wednesday evening, but did not explain that Borisov had been arrested, the Paducah Sun reported.
The Rev. Danny Austin, pastor of Higher Dimensions Church, told the Sun that Jon Todd said the general was ill, while Todd told the Sun that the general was ``under attack from the devil.''
According to Paducah Police, Jon Todd did not correct the misidentification of Borisov when he bailed him out.
Police learned of his real identity Thursday, after a jailer spotted Borisov's picture in a newspaper article about the missed church appearance and realized it was the same man as Ivonof.
Cecil Todd said there was no intention to deceive police.
``Soava Ivonof is the abbreviation of Vyacheslav Ivanovich,'' he said, adding that Slava is a common short form of Vyacheslav. ``The Soava Ivonof is just the same as Slava Ivanovich. The problem is in the breakdown of their understanding of what he said.''
But asked why his son did not clear up the confusion with police or tell reporters or church members about the arrest, Cecil Todd said, ``He felt that the thing would be resolved without the incident becoming public information.''
Although some reports said Borisov was on his way back to Russia on Friday, Cecil Todd said he was at a motel in Branson.
The general will clear his name, Cecil Todd predicted.
``I told him to clear his name,'' he said. ``His name is too important to be desecrated like it was.''
Borisov is to face the charge in court Dec. 30.
Revival Fires and Borisov have worked together most of this decade, raising money to send Bibles to Russian soldiers.
Borisov tells church groups the story of how he was the sole survivor of a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, saying his last-minute prayers saved him
Originally Published, December 11, 1999, Belleville News Democrat,
(c) 1999, Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, Ill.
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