Pastor faces up to 310 years in prison; Vatican poser arrested; Ponzi pastor prosecuted

Pastor faces up to 310 years in prison

A Culpeper pastor faces a possible 310-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to felony fraud charges.

The Rev. Charles Shifflett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Culpeper and former pastor of Calvary Baptist Church there, pleaded guilty to a total of 20 felonies and one misdemeanor, prosecutors announced today.

Nine of the charges involving obtaining money by false pretenses from Calvary Baptist Church from 2002-05, while Shifflett was the pastor.

He also pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud involving a workers compensation award, and five counts of obtaining money under false pretenses from two separate insurance companies, and three counts of filing false state tax returns.

In exchange for Shifflett’s plea, prosecutors dismissed 19 felony charges against his wife, Janice Shifflett.

– Source: Donnie Johnston, Pastor faces up to 310 years in prison, The Free-Lance Star, June 24, 2008

Italian accused of using Catholic Church to fleece investors

An Italian businessman who dated actress Anne Hathaway was arrested yesterday on charges that he posed as the Vatican’s US representative to fleece investors in a property development firm.

Raffaello Follieri, 29, allegedly improperly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars obtained from investors on a lavish lifestyle, including private flights with his girlfriend and others, expensive meals and clothing, and a posh Manhattan flat.

He is accused of duping a partner into investing millions in a scheme to buy properties at bargain prices from the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and redevelop them. Follieri, who was due in court yesterday, is charged with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

Prosecutors allege Follieri embellished his slim connections to the Vatican to make it seem he was so powerful that the Catholic church would sell him property at a deep discount.

– Source: Larry Neumeister, Italian accused of using Church to fleece investors, June 26, 2008

‘Man Of Mystery,’ Perris Pastor Accused Of Ponzi Schemes

LOS ANGELES — A Perris pastor and a self-styled “international man of mystery” defrauded more than 500 investors out of $27 million through bogus coal mine and gold investment Ponzi schemes, a federal prosecutor told a jury Wednesday.

But a defense attorney for the pastor told the panel that her client honestly believed in the ventures and was taken advantage of by others in the scheme.

Henry Uliomereyon Jones, 53, formerly of Marina del Rey, and Robert Jennings, the 57-year-old pastor of Perris’ New Life Fellowship Church, are accused of operating the Ponzi scheme as well as violating a court order to stop it.

In a Ponzi scheme, early investors are typically paid off — often with high returns to entice more investors — with money from later investors. Over time, such operations usually collapse when too many people seek to cash out their “investment” at the same time.

– Source: ‘Man Of Mystery,’ Perris Pastor Accused Of Ponzi Schemes, KNBC, June 25, 2008

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday June 26, 2008.
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