Jury Finds Pastor, Wife Guilty In Offering Fraud Case
A staple of SEC Enforcement has been offering fraud actions. The Commission has brought a seemingly endless stream of these actions. While each scheme is different typically the cases center on promises of a safe investment with a high rate of return. Many of the cases are paralleled by a criminal action. In the most recent iteration of these schemes to go to trial, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia secured convictions against a Pastor and his wife. U.S. v. Millender, No. 1:16-cr-239 (E.D. Va. Verdict, Dec. 18, 2017).
Defendants in the case are Terry Millender and his wife Brenda. Mr. Millender is the former senior pastor of Victorious Life Church, Alexandria, Virginia. The Pastor and his wife operated Micro-Enterprise Management Group or MEMG. They are the founding members of the firm. Pastor Millender served as CEO.
The Virginia firm supposedly helped the poor in developing countries by providing short-term loans to start or expand a business by working with a network of established micro-finance institutions. The couple recruited investors by emphasizing the firm’s Christian mission and the use of the funds to help the poor. Potential investors were also promised guaranteed rates of return. Investments were touted as safe since they were backed by the assets of MEMG.
In fact the representations made to investors were false. Portions of the investor funds were used to conduct risky trading in the foreign exchange currency market and for option trading. Other portions were used to purchase a $1.75 million residence for the Pastor and his wife and for their personal expenses. When investors asked for a return, the couple assured them that the funds would be available but there was a delay because of the 2008 financial crisis. Eventually MEMG failed.
The Pastor and his wife then began a new venture – Kingdom Commodities Unlimited or KCU. The firm claimed to specialize in brokering Nigerian oil deals. Again investors were lured with the promise of high rates of return. Again the investor funds were diverted to the personal use of the couple. Overall investors lost $2 million.
Following trial a jury returned verdicts of guilty as to each defendant. Pastor Millender was found guilty on multiple counts of wire fraud and money laundering. Sentencing is set for March 30, 2018. Previously, Grenetta Wells, MEMG’s COO, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Her sentencing is scheduled for January 12, 2018.