[Hpn] Help the Homeless SCAM / 2nd church elder pleads guilty / Tampa FL USA fw FL USA fw

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Mon, 4 Dec 2000 08:55:36 -0800 (PST)


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FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Dec 01, 2000

SECOND TAMPA CHURCH ELDER PLEADS GUILTY IN FAKE INVESTMENT SCHEME

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ A pitchman and gospel singer has admitted
persuading investors to put millions of dollars into a fraudulent
marketing program for Greater Ministries International Church.

Andrew John Krishak pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of
conspiracy. He faces a five-year prison sentence and a $250,000
fine.

The plea comes four weeks after a second Greater Ministries
elder, James Chambers, also pleaded guilty. Chambers, 68, of
Altamonte Springs, acknowledged the marketing scam in which
parishioners were told they could double cash investments of $250
or more in 17 months.

The scheme, which originated in 1993 and ended in 1998, was
called ``double your money gift exchange program.'' Investigators
estimate as many as 18,000 people from across the country invested
as much as $500 million.

Greater Ministries officials claimed the high returns came from
shrewd investments in gold and platinum mines and overseas banks
paying generous interest.

Krishak, a gospel singer, traveled the country with president
Gerald Payne and other Greater Ministries leaders, selling the
program at meetings in hotel ballrooms and restaurants. He often
mixed musical performance with a sales pitch.

Krishak told potential investors he worked as local
representative for the Greater International Bank of Nauru. But the
bank, supposedly based in the Pacific island, never existed beyond
the piece of paper in Greater Ministries headquarters.

Prosecutors said the program was a Ponzi scheme, where payments
to early investors were made from investments by later investors,
and it enabled Greater Ministries officials to collect ``several
hundred million dollars.''

Church officials said returns would be considered tax-free gifts
from the church and led investors to believe profits would be used
to feed the homeless and support foreign missions, federal
prosecutors said.

Officials said church elders pocketed 5 percent commissions from
the funds, which amounted to more than $1.3 million.

Chambers and six other church officials, including Payne and
Krishak, were indicted by a federal grand jury in March 1999 on 17
counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

Chambers pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to
commit mail fraud and wire fraud and to transport property gained
by fraud across state lines.

The trial of Payne, his wife and the other four defendants is to
begin Jan. 8.

AP-ES-12-01-00 0411EST
Received  Id AP100336E6018371 on Dec 03 2000 07:42

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