Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ex-con Matthew Senge, the would-be Christmas House buyer, is now a Christian blogger

BROOKSVILLE — As far as anyone knows, the last time Matthew Senge saw Hernando County was from the back of a patrol car two years ago on his way to Alabama to face felony charges.

Senge, whose local notoriety was tied to a failed bid to buy the landmark Rogers' Christmas House Village, wound up with a 46-month prison sentence after being convicted of theft by deception for bilking a victim out of cash for a car that didn't belong to him. According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, he served a little less than half of his sentence before his release in November.

And now Senge, 40, has resurfaced on the Internet as a Christian blogger who says his past has been redeemed through his belief in God. He has posted brief sermons on YouTube and written a book — "The Word" . . . Today's Church Seems to be Ignoring — a $28.95 hardback on Amazon.com.

"I am FINISHED AND DONE with low living, sight walking, small planning, SMOOTH KNEES, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals," Senge wrote last spring on his blog, Fishn4Souls, which appeared on a blogging site hosted by the Christian Post newspaper.

But not everyone is buying Senge's story, including people who say they are victims of his scams. Some of them recently posted comments about Senge on another Christian blog.

"When are you (Matthew Senge) going to make restitution to all of us you lied to and stole from?" wrote Gillian Wawrzyniakowski, a former real estate business partner with Senge, on June 2. "I see jail didn't do much to change you."

Toni Burnett, who two years ago showed the Hernando Times a copy of an $87,000 promissory note signed by Senge in 2008, said she has yet to see any of the money she says he owes her. But she has kept a watchful eye for him ever since.

"There are a lot of people still watching for whenever Matt's name pops up," Burnett said by phone earlier this week. "He says he's a Christian, but he's just a man who robs people and then hides behind God. He's a terrible person."

A computer search of public records turned up no current telephone numbers for Senge, and he did not respond to requests for interviews posted on his blog and Facebook page.

A convicted felon long before he arrived in Hernando County in 2007, Senge presented himself in Brooksville as man who was motivated to buy and restore the Christmas House. According to George Rodriguez, who bought the business in 2008, Senge approached him with this idea in late 2009. But it didn't take long for the deal to become a nightmare.

Senge, who introduced himself around town as Matthew Hyde, ran up thousands of dollars of debt before a Hernando Times story in January 2010 revealed his true identity and criminal history. The trail included charges in 2008 for passing worthless checks in Hillsborough County, as well as a recent felony fraud conviction in Hernando County. At the time of his arrest, Senge also was being investigated by the state for working as a process server without a license.

After his release from prison, Senge apparently moved to Delaware.

On his blog, he identifies himself as the founder of Road To Redemption Ministries and says that he has recently released his 126-page book.

The Christmas House closed in April 2010 after 37 years.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@tampabay.com.

Ex-con Matthew Senge, the would-be Christmas House buyer, is now a Christian blogger 06/22/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 8:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. John Morgan 'prepared to invest $100M' in medical marijuana

    State Roundup

    John Morgan spent nearly $7 million pushing two statewide ballot initiatives to expand medical marijuana throughout the state of Florida.

    Personal injury lawyer John Morgan says he's ready to invest $100 million in medical marijuana. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Avalos gets life in prison for killing Bradenton neighbor, pastor

    Crime

    BRADENTON — A Florida man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a neighbor and a local pastor.

    Andres "Andy" Avalos has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a neighbor and a local pastor. 

[File photo from Manatee County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Manchester police hunt for accomplices; Islamic State group claims responsibility for blast

    Public Safety

    MANCHESTER, England — Investigators hunted Tuesday for possible accomplices of the suicide bomber who attacked an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 22 people and sparking a stampede of young concertgoers, some still wearing the American pop star's trademark kitten ears and holding pink balloons.

    Emergency services work at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig in Manchester, England Monday, May 22, 2017. Several people have died following reports of an explosion Monday night at an Ariana Grande concert in northern England, police said. A representative said the singer was not injured.  [Peter Byrne | PA via AP]
  4. Why's Pam Bondi raising money? Not to run for office, she says.

    Blogs

    Term-limited Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi may have restarted her political fundraising, but she says she's not considering a run for another public office.

    Attorney General Pam Bondi
  5. Roommates in Tampa Palms slaying case never outgrew Nazi sympathies, friend says

    Crime

    TAMPA — Like most people, Watson Fincher was shocked to hear that a neo-Nazi turned jihadi stands accused of killing his two Tampa Palms roommates — and that a fourth roommate told federal agents he, too, was a neo-Nazi, had bomb materials and was planning to target infrastructure.

    Authorities investigating a double murder Friday in the Hampton at Tampa Palms complex found explosives and bomb-manking materials in an apartment there. [ANASTASIA DAWSON   |   Times]