United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
Pastor Pleads Guilty To Federal Charges For Ponzi Scheme
Took $1.6 Million from 24 Parishioners, Claiming He was Investing for Quick Returns
A Seattle area pastor who defrauded two dozen parishioners out of more than $1.6 million pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to wire fraud and money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. ANTHONY C. MORRIS, 48, the pastor of New Covenant Christian Center admitted his fraud was a ‘Ponzi’ scheme where early investors were paid off from the money taken from later investors. MORRIS is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones on April 6, 2012.
According to the plea agreement and charges filed in the case, between 2003 and April 2011, MORRIS convinced various investors to provide him money based on false and fraudulent representations. MORRIS told various investors that their money would be placed in an overseas trading program, or used to invest in property for his church. MORRIS represented that the investments would provide a high rate of return in a short period of time. MORRIS promised to return investor money in as little as a few days or a few weeks, with returns of as much as 400 percent. All these representations were false, and in fact MORRIS simply used the funds from later investors to pay off earlier investors. Some of the money went for MORRIS’ expenses and for the expenses of his church. In one 2007 instance described in the plea agreement, a victim provided MORRIS with a $30,000 loan for investment purposes, on the promise that MORRIS would repay him, with interest, in 30 days. Despite repeated promises the money was never repaid.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the exact amount of restitution is still being calculated, but MORRIS has agreed to pay the full amount determined by the court. Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and money laundering is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The case was investigated by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Carl Blackstone and Matthew Diggs.