Jewish Journal

Former pastor allegedly stole millions from churchgoers

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 1, 2009 | 3:38 pm

It seems like the fad of committing financial fraud is waning and the consequences are starting to pile up. Just ask Bernie Madoff.

Now Indiana authorities are looking for a former pastor and his two sons, who allegedly bilked millions of dollars from church members. The money supposedly was to help build churches, but authorities claim the men used the funds to buy planes and sports cars.

The tragic thing about this case is the way authorities say it mixed faith with fraud. More from the AP:

The secretary of state’s office said arrest warrants issued for Vaughn Reeves, 65, and three of his sons charged each with 10 felony counts. Each man could face two to eight years in prison on each count if convicted. Bond for each was set at $1.5 million cash.

None of the men was in custody as of Tuesday afternoon. The charges were filed in western Indiana’s Sullivan County, where Reeves formerly lived, but the men also have last known addresses in Ohio, Iowa and Kentucky. U.S. marshals were tracing their whereabouts, said Jim Gavin, a spokesman for Secretary of State Todd Rokita.

The men are accused of duping about 11,000 church members into buying bonds worth $120 million by urging them to fulfill their “Christian responsibility” to support church construction projects, according to a probable cause affidavit. The men said the bonds would be handled by their brokerage firm, Alanar Inc.

Prosecutors said the men pocketed about $6 million, bought two airplanes, sports cars and vacations. Reeves also bought Porsches for family members, Gavin said. Most of the men’s victims lived in Indiana.

Gavin said he didn’t know whether Reeves and his sons - Chip, 44; Chris, 40; and Josh, 32 - had defense attorneys, and telephone numbers for the men’s previous addresses in all four states were unlisted or disconnected. The men represented themselves in a related federal civil case filed in Indianapolis, according to court documents.

“This case goes far beyond simple theft,” Rokita said in a statement. “The Reeveses allegedly targeted their victims through their faith, and then exploited their religious convictions in order to hide their elaborate Ponzi scheme from potential investors.”

You can read the rest here. Thanks for the link, Holy Weblog!

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