SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A Pentecostal pastor who bilked $1.2 million out of people who thought they were giving the money to someone who needed their help in Trinidad has been convicted in federal court.
Paulette Martin, 45, of Springfield, was found guilty Wednesday of conspiracy and wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Springfield. Prosecutors say she targeted between 40 and 50 victims between 1999 and 2003.
Prosecutors say Martin, who did not preach to a congregation, told her victims that the money they gave her would be used to help a wealthy man from Trinidad who needed their financial assistance to gain access to his wealth. In return for their financial help, Martin told her victims the man from Trinidad would return their money along with an additional financial reward.
“There were many fantastic stories of why this man from Trinidad needed their money,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Goodwin. “These individuals placed a lot of trust in her. They never thought she’d lie to them.”
Goodwin said investigators were unable to determine what Martin did with the money she stole.
Martin’s lawyer, Kevin Murphy, said his client never intended to defraud anyone. Martin testified she was acting on behalf of someone who convinced her to help the man from Trinidad. But during her trial, Martin never identified the man she was in contact with.
Martin’s roommate, Renee Smith, 30, pleaded guilty in March to participating in the scam. She will be sentenced next month, and Martin is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor on Aug. 20. She faces up to 20 years in prison, but Murphy said she likely will be sentenced to about 10 years.