Former Orange County pastor sentenced to 14 years in prison after $ 33 million fraud

WESTMINSTER, Calif .– A former Southern California pastor was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on Friday for organizing a church-based investment scheme that defrauded hundreds of victims of more than $ 33 million.

Former Westminster-based Church for the Healthy Self pastor Kent RE Whitney has been ordered to pay more than $ 22 million in restitution. He pleaded guilty last year to mail fraud and filing a false federal income tax return.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Whitney and her co-pastor allegedly targeted the Vietnamese community in a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

Whitney founded the church and operated it in an Orange County shopping center. The church did not appear to have a sanctuary, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Mr. Whitney, after being briefed on the investigation, immediately reached an agreement with the SEC, cooperated with the US attorney’s office, accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty,” his attorney wrote, Kenneth White, in an email Friday. “He is now focusing on his family.”

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Attempts to reach other church members were unsuccessful.

Whitney defrauded her investors between September 2014 and April 2019, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. He called on church officials to solicit investments on television, as well as at seminars, where they made false or misleading statements.

Although few investor dollars were placed in trading accounts, Whitney sent victims monthly statements containing fake performance reports.

Whitney also filed a false federal income tax return, prosecutors said.

He formed the Church for the Healthy Self after his release from prison on a federal conviction for defrauding investors in a commodity program, the LA Times reported.

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