A former California pastor has been sentenced to 14 years in prison after being found guilty of overseeing a church-based investment scam amounting to about $33 million.
Last Friday, Kent R.E. Whitney, the former pastor of Church of the Healthy Self, was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison and a fine of $22,662,668 in restitution fees.
Kenneth White, an attorney representing Whitney, told The Associated Press that Whitney “immediately settled with” the Securities and Exchange Commission “upon being notified of the investigation.”
“[Whitney] accepted responsibility and entered a guilty plea,” added White, as reported by the AP. “His focus is now on his family.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as part of the fraud, Whitney encouraged people to invest in CHS Trust, the investment branch of the church.
“[A]t Whitney’s direction, CHS representatives made false or misleading claims, including: CHS Trust guaranteed an annual rate of return of 12 percent; CHS Trust guaranteed a return of principal with no risk because it was federally insured; the worst return received during the previous five years was a 1.5 percent profit for the month of January 2015; traders used by CHS had not lost money in 15 years,” stated the DOJ.
“In fact, little investor money went into any trading accounts. Relying on these false statements, victim-investors sent more than $33 million to CHS from 2014 to 2019. As part of the scheme, Whitney directed that monthly statements be sent to victims that contained false reports of investment returns.”
Investigators estimated that Whitney used about $11 million from investors to pay other investors who had bought into the scam earlier, The Christian Post reports.
Whitney’s 2018 tax return also showed that although he reported his total income as $17,539 in 2018, his actual income was about $452,8000, most of which came from the CHS fraud.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.