By Michael Kunzelman
Three Maryland men presenting themselves as pastors targeted church members and other investors in a Ponzi scheme that defrauded victims out of more than $28 million, according to a federal indictment unsealed Friday.
Instead of providing customers with high rates of return and helping with charitable religious causes, the three men used the money to pay off other investors and to fund lavish lifestyles that included luxury cars, private jets and family vacations, Justice Department prosecutors said.
The July 27 indictment against Dennis Mbongeni Jali, 35; John Erasmus Frimpong, 40; and 61-year-old Arley Ray Johnson includes charges of wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering.
Federal regulators say the men fraudulently raised millions of dollars from approximately 1,200 investors, many of them African immigrants working in the medical field. The indictment identifies nine of the victims as residents of Maryland, Indiana or Texas and says they included nurses, an accountant, an engineer and a car dealership manager.
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