A pastor in Little Saigon in Orange County, California accused in a $33 million church-based investment fraud case has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges, reports the OC Register.
Kent Whitney ran the Church for the Healthy Self, a virtual church based in Westminster. The charges include mail fraud and filing a false income tax return.
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, authorities believe much of the money gained from this scheme funded Whitney’s lavish lifestyle. Court filings cited by the Register indicate he used the money to buy Rolex watches, a Bentley automobile, Gucci apparel and guns, and to rent beach properties.
In his plea bargain, Whitney admitted that from 2014 to 2019 he falsely guaranteed a high, tax-deductible return from investments and claimed to his followers their money was safe.
The Register reports Whitney promised a 12% rate of return, with no risk due to federal insurance. He could face up to 23 years in federal prison, according to the Register.
The church recruited its investors primarily targeting the Vietnamese community in live seminars and television appearances uploaded onto YouTube. Some of those videos are still online.
According to the indictment, investors received false statements detailing non-existent investments.
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