Former Westminster Church pastor gets 14 years in jail for $ 33million investment scam
A convicted con artist and former pastor of Westminster-based Church of Westminster was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on Friday for orchestrating an investment scam that defrauded people of over $ 33 million.
Kent RE Whitney, 39, a Newport Beach alumnus but currently residing in northern California, was also ordered to pay $ 22,662,668 in restitution, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. hurry.
Whitney pleaded guilty in November 2020 to mail fraud and filing a false federal income tax return.
From September 2014 to April 2019, Whitney allegedly conspired to defraud investors through Church of the Sain Self, a nonprofit company he founded, and its related entities, including CHS Asset Management Inc. , according to the prosecutor’s office. Whitney founded these entities and operated them at a shopping center in the Little Saigon neighborhood of Westminster until it closed after the United States Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint and a judge froze assets. from the church.
Whitney founded the church in 2014, three months after serving a 44-month prison sentence for another commodities investment fraud, authorities said.
Under Whitney’s direction, church officials have appeared on television and in seminars live from church offices to solicit investments in CHS Trust, the church’s investment arm.
During these appearances, which were frequently uploaded to YouTube, church officials made false or misleading statements at Whitney’s request, including: CHS Trust guaranteed a 12% annual rate of return; CHS Trust guaranteed a risk-free return of capital because it was insured by the federal government; the worst return obtained in the previous five years was a profit of 1.5% for the month of January 2015; traders used by CHS had not lost money for 15 years; and CHS has been audited by the accounting firm KPMG.
Only a small amount of investor money entered trading accounts, the prosecutor’s office said.
Relying on false claims, investors sent more than $ 33 million to the church from 2014 to 2019. As part of the program, Whitney ordered that monthly statements be sent to victims containing false reports of the victims. returns on investment.
Whitney intended to trick victims into believing their money had been invested and was consistent with false claims made by church officials, according to the press release. He also made around $ 11 million in Ponzi-like payments to investors, taken from money brought in by subsequent victims.
Additionally, Whitney knowingly and willfully signed and filed a false federal income tax return stating that her total income for the 2018 tax year was $ 17,539. His actual income for that year was at least $ 452,872, of which about $ 435,333 was obtained by fraud, prosecutors said. The resulting tax loss was at least $ 130,808.
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