Federal authorities have charged the pastor of a Texas megachurch and a Louisiana financial planner with defrauding elderly investors out of more than $1 million.
The two men were charged Friday with six counts of wire fraud and five counts of money laundering, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has also filed civil charges against the men for the alleged fraud, which occurred from 2013 to 2014.
One man, 64, is the senior pastor of a church Houston, which is described by the SEC as “one of the largest Protestant churches in the U.S.” The Louisian man, 55, is the manager of a financial group in Shreveport.
They’re accused of bilking 29 mostly elderly investors by selling them Chinese bonds issued before the revolution of 1949, saying that their historical value made them “worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars” according to a court document from the SEC.
The bonds have no investment value.
The SEC says the bonds have been in default since 1939, and the “current Chinese government refuses to recognize the debt.”
The funds collected were used to pay for personal expenses, including mortgage payments and luxury automobiles.
The DOJ says they allegedly defrauded the investors out of more than $1 million. The SEC places that figure higher, at $3.4 million.
The maximum sentence, if they’re convicted, is 20 years with a $1 million fine, as well as restitution and forfeiture, according to the DOJ.
The crime of money laundering uses financial transactions to conceal the origin of money obtained through illegal activity, to make it appear that the money came from a legitimate source. This is a very serious offense that can carry severe penalties, including steep fines and jail time if you are found guilty.