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Second man sentenced in phony church scam

Associated Press, USA
Mar. 8, 2004 • Tuesday March 9, 2004

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A second man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison on Monday for his role in a scheme to create phony churches and bilk charity donors out of millions of dollars.

Gabriel Bernardo Sanchez, 37, was convicted in November – along with childhood friend Timothy James Lyon – on 33 counts of mail fraud and 10 counts of money laundering.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter called Sanchez’s actions “egregious and inexcusable.”

Prosecutors said the scam began in 1993 when Sanchez started the First Church of Life in Costa Mesa, which he used to register numerous phony charities that did not have tax-exempt status.

The men are accused of pocketing the contributions from hundreds of donors who thought they were giving to causes such as AIDS research and programs for families of police officers killed in the line of duty.

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