No matter how many times you hear about churches defrauding members of their congregation out of money, it never fails to cause an element of disbelief. The latest case involving church fraud isn’t just a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, this Virginia-based incident involves over a million dollars that were schemed from congregation members of the Victorious Life Church.
Pastor Terry Wayne Millender and his wife Brenda were both recently arrested on charges that they defrauded church members out of $1.2 million dollars for their Alexandria, Virginia church, Victorious Life. The married couple is being indicted on federal charges by grand jury that could land them both in prison for quite some time. The Root has further details of the case, including the identity of a third suspect that was also in on the scheme.
Via The Root:
According to the report, Terry Wayne Millender, who serves as pastor for Victorious Life Church in Alexandria; his wife, Brenda; and a friend, Grenetta Wells, who is also affiliated with the church, were all recently indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracy.
Authorities say the charges stem from an investment scam in which the Millenders and Wells convinced congregations to invest in their company, Micro-Enterprise Management Group, which allegedly helped poor people in developing countries through the provision of small, short-term loans to start or build up existing businesses by working with a network of established microfinance groups, Fox5DC reports. The trio allegedly underlined their business’s Christian mission and promised guaranteed rates of return. Some investors gave sums ranging from $40,000 to $400,000, authorities say.
However, instead of using the money for its intended mission, the Millenders and Wells allegedly conducted risky trading on the foreign-exchange currency market and also helped fund the purchase of a lavish $1.75 million residence for the Millenders and other personal expenses for the defendants. When parishioners began to question when they would get their money back, the defendants blamed delays on the 2008 financial crisis, authorities say.
When asked how he felt about the indictment, former church member Eric Brown stated that, “It didn’t really come as a shock—it was more of a sigh of relief.” Brown and his family are apart of those who initially invested in the fraud scheme. The Millenders are currently being held without bond.
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