‘Christian’ con artist gets 5 years in prison

An Arizona con man who used promises of Christian goodwill to prey on churchgoers in Arizona and 12 other states will spend the next five years in prison.

The Arizona Republic reports

Edward Purvis of Chandler was sentenced in Maricopa County Superior Court last week on charges of illegally controlling an enterprise and fraud, ending a bizarre seven-year case that involved fake gold mines, phony investment schemes, bribery of a police officer and bogus lawsuits against several public officials.

Purvis, who pleaded guilty to the charges as part of a plea deal in January, apologized in court to his victims, friends and his family. He and his supporters blamed the scheme on a former business partner who turned state’s evidence and will be sentenced next month.

Authorities say Purvis and his partner, Gregg Wolfe, operated a Ponzi scheme through a non-profit called Nakami Chi Group Ministries International, which promised to fund Christian causes around the globe while repaying investors 24 percent annual returns.

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. […]

One of Nakami’s investors, Rouzanna Burton of Buckeye, told the court how she and her husband were lured into the scheme through church.

“If you spoke against him, you were against the church,” she said while fighting to control her emotions. “When we told him we were going to authorities, he (Purvis) said, ‘If you go to the government, you will never get your money back.'” […]

About a dozen friends and relatives of Purvis spoke in his defense during the hearing, begging the court for mercy. They said Purvis was the victim of a conspiracy between state investigators and The Arizona Republic, which has been covering his case since 2006. […]

Purvis was first sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for bribing a Chandler police officer and for filing a series of bogus legal claims against public officials, including a judge, in an attempt to derail the Corporation Commission’s investigation.

Purvis was initially released from prison in 2009. But he was rearrested in 2010 after The Republic documented his efforts to promote a gold-mine project to potential investors while on probation.

Superior Court Judge Bruce Cohen last week could have sentenced Purvis anywhere from 42 to 90 months in prison. Citing aggravating circumstances, he gave Purvis five years plus seven years probation and ordered him to repay Arizona investors $3.8 million.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday March 9, 2012.
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