A Michigan pastor has been charged with fraud — and had his assets frozen — after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) office in Chicago announced he bilked his own congregation into investing in his shady real estate business.
The SEC alleges that Larry Holley, the pastor of Abundant Life Ministries in Flint, Mich., cloaked his solicitations in faith-based rhetoric, replete with references to scripture and biblical figures. Holley allegedly told prospective investors that as a person who “prayed for your children,” he was more trustworthy than a “banker” with their money… He allegedly called his investors “millionaires in the making.”
… approximately $6.7 million was raised from more than 80 investors who were guaranteed high returns and told they were investing in a profitable real estate company with hundreds of residential and commercial properties.
Pastor Larry Holley didn’t just take that money from his congregation. His business partner Patricia Enright Gray specifically reached out to laid-off auto workers in Flint, encouraging them to give what little money they had to his enterprise.
“As alleged in our complaint, Holley and Gray targeted the retirement savings of churchgoers, building a bond of trust purportedly based on faith but actually based on false promises,” said David Glockner, Director of the SEC’s Chicago Regional Office.
It’s not the first time flimsy faith-based promises have been made to people who thought they could trust their spiritual leaders, but it’s rarely this blatantly illegal.
As it stands, “More than 40 investors are still owed roughly $2 million.” And those are just the people in Michigan.
I’m tempted to tell Holley to pray for that money to come through, but even he doesn’t seem to believe his own bullshit at this point. Religion, to him, was just a tool to get people to trust him so he could pull a fast one over them.
Let’s hope the people whose money he stole finally come to their senses and realize that the word “pastor” doesn’t make someone more trustworthy.
(Image via Shutterstock)