A pastor in Florida is refusing to give up $1.7 million that rightfully belongs to victims of a massive $30 million Ponzi scheme, calling the money “God’s blessings.”
But those blessings didn’t come to Winners Church from God; they came from a former church director who took advantage of people. And surprise! Pastor Fred Shipman thinks God wants him to keep the cash.
Not if a judge has anything to say about it.
A federal judge has temporarily frozen the accounts of Winners Church and its top pastors, Fred and Whitney Shipman. In an unusual move, the father and son leaders of the 25-year-old Jog Road church are fighting efforts that would allow the money to be returned to hundreds of people who were lured into a far-flung diamond and bitcoin investment scam.
“It’s going to have a ripple effect in everything we do from this point on,” Bishop Fred Shipman told U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg, explaining the effects of returning the money it received from one of the church’s directors who was involved in the scheme. “I don’t think it’s fair.”
Won’t someone think of the criminals?!
If Shipman wants to talk about fairness, it’s only right to think about the people whose financial loss had a major “ripple effect” on their lives as well.
Luckily the SEC isn’t rolling over and letting them steal millions of dollars for the second time.
Amie Berlin, an attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission, shot back: “Do you think it’s fair that people stole other people’s money and gave it to the church, and they’re not going to get it back?”
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Shipman admitted.
Berlin isn’t claiming the 3,000-member church or the pastors were involved in the multilayered Ponzi scheme that she says was orchestrated by former church director Jose Aman and prominent Canadian financial commentator Harold Seigel. His son, Jonathan Seigel, was also involved in the scam that operated from offices on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, regulators claim.
The bigger point, Berlin said, was that others, including pawn shops, are cooperating with financial regulators to retrieve investors’ money. The church, in contrast, isn’t aiding those efforts even though it received more of the ill-gotten gains than anyone other than Aman and the Seigels, Berlin said.
There you have it. A church is behaving less ethically than a pawn shop.
If that surprises you, then welcome to the United States in 2019.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Kristin for the link)