Pastor Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges
St. Louis, MO – Mark Q. Stafford of O’Fallon, Missouri, pled guilty to mail fraud and filing a false tax return in connection with a large-scale investment fraud arising out of his company, the Stafford Financial Firm. Stafford appeared before United States District Judge Henry E. Autrey, who set sentencing for June 13, 2017.
Stafford, who was also a minister at New Birth Powerplex Ministries in North St. Louis, admitted in open court that he falsely represented to clients of the Stafford Financial Firm that their funds would be placed with Quest Financial Holdings or Gain Capital Group, which Stafford sometimes misspelled “Gain Capitol Group.” In truth and in fact, Stafford did not open any accounts at Quest Financial Holdings or Gain Capital Group in his clients’ names. Instead, Stafford in some cases did not deposit the clients’ funds with either Quest Financial Holdings or Gain Capital Group, and in others he deposited their funds into his own accounts at Gain Capital Group, where he then used those funds for his own personal benefit. Stafford obtained approximately $1.26 million in proceeds from approximately 31 victims, and caused an actual loss to those victims in the approximate amount of $1.08 million.
Stafford also pled guilty to filing a false tax return in 2011 that failed to disclose the income he had illegitimately taken from his investors. Stafford also admitted to failing to file any tax return in 2012 and 2014.
Mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. Filing a false tax return carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and/or fines up to $100,000. In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges. Restitution is mandatory under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. Additionally, Stafford agreed to a forfeiture allegation that will result in a money judgment against him equal to the amount he swindled from investors.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney Richard E. Finneran is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.