Thursday, February 25, 2010

Defrauding The Congregation

Mr. Prophet: “Beloved, declare it now, as the heavens are opening in alignment to the apostolic shifts: “money cometh to me, to you, and to us…”
Congregation: “Money cometh, money cometh…”
Mr. Prophet: “Sign up in obedience now, and you will see your money goeth…uh , “money cometh”.
Congregation: “Money cometh, money cometh…”

*Sadly, as the article below accounts, many members of a church lost money in an investment scheme devised by its leaders.


Church Leaders Admit to Defrauding Parishioners

by Michael Lanza/Queens Chronicla

Two former leaders at the Christian Assembly Church in Forest Hills pleaded guilty to fraud charges on Friday.

Robert Riddle and Timothy Smith were among five implicated in a scheme that bilked nearly $12 million from elderly parishioners last year.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a criminal complaint last April, alleging that leaders of the church had raised millions from their congregation to sustain a hedge fund, promising investors returns as high as 75 percent.

But the church officials soon began skimming the fund for their own use.

Isaac Ovid, a former minister at Christian Assembly, allegedly used $200,000 to purchase a Bentley. Others implicated in the scheme bought watches, jewelry and took trips to France and Switzerland, according to prosecutors.

The fund was allegedly pitched as a safe investment for parishioners — with leaders encouraging the victims to transfer their savings or take out home equity loans. In 2004, when the fund was created, Christian Assembly’s founder, Jonathan Coleman, held a public prayer for the success of their new business, Jadis Capital — generating widespread interest within the church.

One elderly and partially disabled member — who became the first investor — transferred $700,000 to the fund. She lost all but $55,000. Another took out a home equity loan for $500,000, losing all but $7,540.

“The fact that many of the victims of this scheme were senior citizens and members of the same church as the defendants makes this fraud particularly reprehensible,” said James Clarkson, the SEC’s regional director at the time.

According to the SEC’s complaint, the plan was orchestrated by Ovid and Jonathan Coleman, the son of Christian Assembly’s founder. Others charged in the scheme were Riddle, Smith, Aaron Riddle, Stephen Cina and Corey Martin.

Riddle and Smith each face up to five years in prison.