Three pastors have been accused of running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 1,200 victims out of millions. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the three individuals made approximately $28 million through their financial literacy program called '1st Millions.'
The DOJ alleges that these fake pastors recruited investors under the guise of offering them financial education and promised high returns on their investments. They frequented churches, upscale events, and hotel galas to lure in potential victims.
What's even more disturbing is that these men reportedly used religion as part of their scheme. They presented themselves as people who could help others achieve financial freedom under "the auspices of God."
Before being caught, the trio tried to scrub an online article about a previous Ponzi scheme they were involved in. However, authorities were able to piece together evidence from this previous case and build a stronger case against them.
According to court documents, one victim invested nearly $2 million into the scheme after being promised significant returns on his investment. The DOJ also claims that some victims were encouraged to take out loans or liquidate their retirement accounts so they could invest even more money.
The three men now face charges for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, they could each face up to 20 years in prison.
As this case highlights yet again-- if something seems too good to be true it probably is-- especially when someone uses religion as part of their sales pitch. Always do your due diligence before investing your hard-earned money with any organization or individual claiming expertise in finance or anything else for that matter.