Ill-gotten gain was the goal of three men, including a former pastor. The churches were the target. “Unconventional loans” for new church buildings were the bait. Over time, four churches and a real estate development company lost more than $3.5 million in security “deposits” for projects that never materialized.
Finally, last week, the last of the three felons confessed to conspiring to defraud victims as part of a scheme they concocted in 2013. The news was announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who accused the three men in 2019.
“These three defendants devised an elaborate scheme to provide unconventional construction loans to churches and other development projects,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in 2019. “But instead of helping to build places of worship, the defendants allegedly built a house of cards, a Ponzi scheme.
Raymond E. Robinson, the ex-pastor, was sentenced to 42 months in prison and three years of probation and ordered to pay $17,750 forfeiture and restitution of $3.2 million. His role was to find and contact churches that needed loans to expand their facilities. He then referred interested parties to his co-conspirators, who forged loan papers and secured deposits.
Robinson, 70, who lived in Leander, Texas, had the experience and credibility to woo wary customers: He’s a former minister and a veteran in the church building industry. For years he ran Ray Robinson Ministries, a church counseling company based in Branson and Jefferson, Missouri. An Ohio office for Ray Robinson Ministries was established in 2014 after the scheme to defraud churches was developed.
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Ringleader Jeffery N. Crossland was also sentenced to 51 months in prison and three years of probation. He was ordered to pay $37,873 forfeiture and $3.2 million restitution.
He operated Crossland Capital Partners LLC and other companies, which created fake loan documents for victims of fraud. His Santa Monica-based company lost its membership with Finra, the financial industry regulator, in 2009 for non-payment of fees. Crossland is 65 and lives in Glendale, California.
And Stephen C. Parente, 54, of Buford, Georgia, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years on probation and ordered to pay $33,230 forfeiture and $3 million restitution. He led Eagle Capital Investment Partners, LP in Georgia. Her role in the program was to review clients’ financial profiles and help them through the loan application process.
The three men hatched their plan in California and obtained more than $3.5 million in deposits from defrauded customers between April 2013 and March 2015.
When impatient customers demanded to know where their loans were, the three men promised to honor them while warning against “reporting their conduct to law enforcement authorities and/or taking legal action against them.” “.
The crime was “really serious and it took a lot of planning and callousness,” U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas said.
The United States Postal Inspection Service, United States Attorney’s Office Special Agents, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, the FBI Field Office and the United States Attorney’s Office Westchester County in New York assisted in the investigation. York.
“This case highlights the fact that when money is involved, scammers don’t care where it comes from, even if it comes from local church parishioners,” said Philip R. Bartlett of the Service d postal inspection.
This article originally appeared on MinistryWatch.
Steve Rabey is a seasoned author and journalist who has published over 50 books and 2,000 articles on religion, spirituality and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and at the US Air Force Academy.