For more than six years, an Arizona con man maintained his innocence in a fraud that bilked millions of dollars from churchgoers in Arizona and 12 other states.
But on Tuesday, Edward Purvis of Chandler pleaded guilty to orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that involved fake gold mines, phony businesses and a bogus promise to fund Christian causes with investor money.
Authorities say hundreds of victims across the USA were duped into giving money to a Christian non-profit owned by Purvis called Nakami Chi Group Ministries International.
Purvis’ plea marks the latest turn in a bizarre case that since 2006 has involved the bribery of a Chandler police officer and the filing of several fake lawsuits against public officials. Purvis, who has served more than two years in state prison for bribery and harassment, was on the verge of going to trial on fraud charges when he withdrew his not-guilty plea.
As part of a deal with state prosecutors, Purvis admitted illegally controlling an enterprise and fraud, which carries a minimum prison term of 42 months. […]
A Ponzi or pyramid scheme is an investment scam that uses money from new investors to pay old investors. Nakami’s investors included at least one pastor, church elders and members of Chandler Christian Church and Vineyard Church in Avondale.
Vineyard Pastor John Farmer, who once acknowledged investing in Nakami and has voiced support for Purvis and Purvis’ partner, Gregg Wolfe, did not return calls Tuesday.
Wolfe in 2009 turned state’s evidence against Purvis and admitted that Nakami was a fraud. He agreed to testify against Purvis as part of a plea agreement. Both Purvis and Wolfe are scheduled to be sentenced on March 2.
Purvis and Wolfe promised investors they would receive 24 percent annual returns and that their money would be used to support Christian causes around the globe. Instead, court records showed, Purvis used their money for cars, jewelry, a down payment on an $800,000 home, excursions to Vegas, gambling debts, personal investments and other expenses.
Purvis and Wolfe told investors Nakami was worth $170 billion and controlled assets around the world, including gold mines, Australian developments, telecom firms, banks and a Phoenix technology company.
Purvis was also sentenced in 2008 to 18 months in prison and three years of probation for bribing a Chandler police officer and for filing a series of bogus legal claims against public officials in an attempt to derail a fraud investigation by the Arizona Corporation Commission. The commission regulates the sale of securities in Arizona.
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