Saturday, 4 May 2013

Pastors Charged With Bilking Church Members of Millions (PHOTOS)


The three pastors, a man and two women, face numerous charges for allegedly defrauding their congregants, family and friends out of $8.6 million in a Ponzi scheme.

The arrests were made earlier this week. According to Toronto police [PDF], the fraudulent scheme was conducted between January 2005 and December 2010 while the three accused were co-pastors of The Life Centre Word of Faith Ministries in Toronto. The three pastors are accused of convincing members of their congregation as well as family members and friends to invest in loan agreements and investment contracts that provided high rates of return.

The victims were told one of the pastors was an experienced foreign currency trader and every month the investors were given statements showing their investment accounts growing. Later on, some of the investors became suspicious and lodged a complaint with Ontario Securities Commission (OSC).

The OSC conducted a forensic audit and concluded the investment scheme was fraudulent. The commission determined investors were defrauded of $8.6 million, $4 million of which is outstanding. It is believed the money ended up offshore in Panama.

Toronto police have identified 38 victims who were defrauded of $2.1 million. On Thursday, they arrested Marlon Gary Hibbert 49, and his wife, Verna Michelle Hibbert, 48, both of Toronto. Yesterday, Lorraine Bahlmann, 47, also of Toronto was arrested. All three are charged with 38 counts of fraud over $5,000.

Last year, Marlon Hibbert was permanently banned from the securities industry after it was determined he was never registered and engaged in illegal transactions. James Carnworth, commissioner of the OSC said, "In 32 years of adjudication, I have never encountered a more vile, more heinous fraud than that perpetrated by Hibbert on his unsuspecting parishioners."

According to Det. Gail Regan of the financial crimes unit of the Toronto Police Service, the fraud was perpetrated in order to support a high lifestyle for the Hibberts that included luxurious vehicles and a large Toronto home. Of the victims, Regan said, "They are distraught. They are hurt. They still can't believe someone like him could have done this to them. They are quite happy [the Hibberts] have been arrested but for some of them this was their life savings that they have taken out of the bank or their RRSPs for retirement."

Some of the victims have lost their homes. The minimum required investment in the scheme was $10,000 and many victims were not well off to begin with.

Police believe there are more victims.

Culled from Digital Journal

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