October 27, 2005
"Financial Pastor" Who Conducted a Ponzi Scheme Receives 21-Year Sentence
William Warren touted himself to churches and religious organizations as a "financial pastor" who possessed special expertise in investments and promised outsized returns. Like most everything that sounds too good to be true, it wasn't, and he entered a guilty plea to mail fraud, securities fraud, and embezzlement for bilking over 140 investors out of $7 million. According to a press release (here) issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia:
Warren solicited investors by advertising that he was a "financial pastor" with exceptional investment expertise. He targeted churches and religious organizations by offering free financial seminars and workshops under the name Excellent Life Institute. Warren solicited persons within these groups to invest funds with his companies, promised them unusually high rates of return on their investments, and represented that he would use their funds to trade stock index futures contracts. Warren offered rates of return of up to 30% to 40 % annually.
U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad sentenced Warren to a 21-year term of imprisonment, a stiff sentence for a ponzi scheme. (ph)
Update: The original post identified the defendant as John Brownlee, who is the United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. My apologies for the misidentification. (ph)
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