Terry Millender, pastor of Victorious Life Church, and his wife Brenda, have been found guilty of scamming friends and congregants out of millions of dollars, The Washington Post reports.
The couple had promised both friends and congregants that investing in their company Micro-Enterprise Management Group would have them sowing in developing countries and getting financial returns.
Explaining how the couple, together with a friend Grenetta Wells “invested” the funds – ranging from $40,000 to $4 million – they got, The Washington Post revealed most of the money went into the couple’s personal expenses, including golf and rent.
$1.4 million that went into a microlending company was squandered, and $600,000 was lost after an investment in the Nigerian oil industry failed.
According to prosecutors, the couple had no experience in microlending and did not tell investors they planned to generate profit though risky currency trading.
The couple used their friends’ to lure new investors and to make payments on a $1.75 million home in Springfield, Va., court documents showed.
Terry was found guilty for all 31 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, false-tax-return filing and obstruction, and his wife was found guilty only 7 of them.
“I’m pleased that the jury’s verdict at least acknowledges a vast difference between Mr. and Mrs. Millender’s respective involvement. However, our position is and will remain that Brenda Millender wasn’t involved at any level that triggers criminal culpability.” Brenda’s lawyer, Lana Manitta, said.
Terry told jurors that “You can’t do good and be poor at the same time. You can’t help the poor and be poor, it makes no sense,” declaring that to truly “make a difference in the lives of people,” he had to have enough to give charity.
Terry said he had run a successful restaurant recommendation business before he was called to lead a church and a Christian-focused investment firm.
At the court proceeding, he said he was guilty of financial mismanagement, not fraud. He acted “stupidly, not criminally — not from my heart,” he said.