Thursday, February 26, 2015

Can You Forgive Your Pastor Defrauding You Because He Said it's "Not Intentional"?

Imagine this scenario:

Your pastor is a man you trusted because you trusted people who are men of God. You've seen him save people from alcoholism. You know him to be a moral man that came from humble origins.

So when your pastor claimed that he's started a business where he needed money to make money, and promised a hefty return, you did not hesitate. Your pastor claimed the money will be invested in foreign currency, or perhaps commodities...

But after a few months, perhaps a year or so of paying out... There is no more payment. That's when the pastor admitted he wasted all of your money. And money of hundreds of other churchgoers and his other associates.

But he didn't mean it. It was "not intentional". He lost money too.

Can you forgive him? When your life savings are gone? When you will probably lose your house and declare bankruptcy?

For hundreds of people around the country, this is not imagination. It is absolutely real.

Welcome to the world of religious fraud.  We got two sob stories for you.

Julius Blackwelder was a former Mormon bishop in Connecticut who claimed he can trade commodities and make big profits in a scheme that lasted 10 years. He took in money and gave out promissory notes with various memoranda and account updates, promising guaranteed returns of 20-25 percent per year. And we're talking about millions. However, he was actually quite bad in trading. He lost money in 50 of the 59 months he actually traded. And he actually used almost a million to buy a nice house... demolish it, and built a mansion in its place. And then he opened a loan through the TARP program... and the Feds got involved. Connecticut issued him a "cease and desist" in 2011, the Feds indicted him in 2012 for running a Ponzi scheme.

So he moved to Texas and took menial jobs, then became a long-haul trucker in North Dakota. He live in a trailer on an abandoned school. And in 2013, he was convicted of running a Ponzi scheme.

At the sentencing, Blackwelder stated to the judge, ""that have led to the loss of trust of my friends. This was not intentional."

Apparently some of his former flock forgave him, believed that he did intend to pay them all back... but not all are so charitable.

On the opposite coast, a nearly identical story played out in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California.

Pastor Luis Serna, native of Mexico, came from humble origins, never graduated high school,  but became a pastor, and was serving in Zion Living World Christian Center in San Fernando when he was busted in 2014. He had apparently solicited $7 million from his flock in "Architects of the Future Investment" where he said any money will be used for foreign currency investments. Most of his followers were some of the poorest immigrants and was entranced by the promises of up to 20% annual returns. Over 82 victims were reported.

One victim family reported that they lost their house held for 20 years, with ruined credit and forced to declare bankruptcy.

In November 2014 Serna was sentenced to 10 years in prison and $4.6 million in restitution.

These stories are hardly unique, as there are more and more of them every day. But what is there to learn from them?

The person who you believe will NEVER cheat you... is probably the person that WILL cheat you. 

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