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A church graveyard filled with fraudulent investments?
Between 2003 and April 2011, Anthony C. Morris, 48, the pastor of the Seattle-area's New Covenant Christian Center solicited investors for an overseas trading program - or for investment in property for the benefit of his church. My, quite the difference in the use of proceeds: overseas trading or church property. Even with the additional disclosure that Morris was a Seattle-area pastor, that hardly explains the odd variation in the purported destination for investors' funds.
Of course, as these stories progress, the nuances are less important than the preposterous promises. Morris assured that investments would provide a high rate of return in a short period of time - up to 400% within days or weeks. Praise the Lord! Lemme sign up here.
I trust that regular readers of "Street Sweeper" are, by now, well prepared for the punchline: Pastor Morris was a scam, a sham, and a flim-flam man.
For starters, this wannabe investment guru was little more than another Ponzi retread who used newer funds to pay off earlier investors. Moreover, in keeping with these frauds, some funds were earmarked for Morris' personal expenses and for the expenses of his church. By the time the good pastor's life of crime had ended, he had duped some two dozen parishioners out of some $1.6 million.
Prosecutors had asked the Court to hand down a four-year prison sentence, noting in their sentencing memorandum that Morris had "preyed on those least likely to suspect him, demand collateral, and seek other assurances present in arms-length business transactions. Moreover, in several cases the defendant falsely represented that the funds solicited were intended to benefit church-related purposes."
On January 13, 2012, Morris pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in federal court in Seattle. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Morris agreed to pay restitution in an amount to be determined by the court. He faced up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge and 10 years, on the money laundering.
On April 27, 2012, Morris was sentenced to 40 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and $1,843,932 in restitution.