Three Maryland men were arrested and charged for wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering.
Dennis Mbongeni Jali, John Erasmus Frimpong, and Arley Ray Johnson posed as fake pastors to gain the trust of many churchgoers and "allegedly preyed on their victims with false hope of financial security."
FBI Special Agent in Charge, Jennifer Boone, said, "They used the victims' hard-earned money for luxury cars, private jets, and family vacations while the victims ended up with false promises and empty hopes."
Jali, Frimpong, and Johnson allegedly scammed around 1,200 investors out of $28 million, including but not limited to: nurses, accountants, engineers, and car dealership managers. NBC later reported that Jali presented himself as a pastor who was also an expert trader and a self-made millionaire.
The lawsuit states, "Jali preached at local churches, including the church Frimpong attended, and solicited investments from parishioners during church services." Johnson, a confessed Christian minister, overlooked and participated in similar actions. Frimpong also posed as an expert trader in cryptocurrency markets and foreign exchange markets while preaching at different churches.
According to the indictment, the three men operated as fake pastors under Jali's company, The Smart Partners LLC, or "1st Million." It also stated that the accused "told prospective investors that 1st Million's work was in furtherance of God's mission as it helped churches and their members achieve personal wealth and financial freedom."
Joli faces up to 10 years for each of three counts of money laundering, and they collectively face up to "a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for a wire fraud conspiracy and for each count of wire fraud; a maximum of five years in federal prison for a securities fraud conspiracy and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for each count of securities fraud."