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'Share the blessing' scheme leads to investment fraud convictions

Church-going people are often categorized in particular ways by others. More than 200 hundreds years ago, for example, the celebrated historian Edward Gibbon claimed that Christians' lack of civic zeal helped bring down the Roman Empire.

More recently, some people claiming Christian allegiance have been inclined to (figuratively) "buy in" to a view of life that emphasizes tangible material blessings as a sign of God's favor. This so-called Prosperity Gospel is deeply controversial in Christian circles.

It also provides the back story for a recent major fraud case with connections to Missouri. In this post, we'll discuss the sentencing of a man who was convicted of taking more than $10 million in an investment scheme that targeted many church-going people of modest means.

The 58-year-old man who headed the scheme was convicted of numerous white-collar offenses in connection with the investment fraud. These offenses included wire fraud, money laundering, securities fraud and conspiracy. A federal judge sentenced the man this week to a 30-year prison term.

Two other people from the investment company have been convicted of fraud charges as well.

Authorities say that the scheme started in 2008, with the sale of unregistered stock to unsophisticated investors with promises of marvelous returns. The investment company reached out to investors through various churches, promoting the scheme as a unique chance to "share the blessing" that their faith promised them.

Of course, a caricature of Christians as naïve investors is no more accurate than Edward Gibbon's caricature of them as disloyal to the Roman Empire. To be sure, Christ did counsel his followers to be innocent as doves. But he also told them, in the same breath, to be wise as serpents.

Source: CBS St. Louis, "Kansas Man Sentenced to 30 Years for Fraud," October 10, 2013

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