A pastor and wife team in Virginia were found guilty of fraud Monday after they reportedly lied and scammed millions of dollars from friends and their congregation members, The Washington Post reported. Terry and Brenda Millender, who lead the Victorious Life Church in Alexandria, reportedly cooked up a big $2 million investment scam in which they collected money for a so-called Christian company that helped entrepreneurs in developing countries. Those people who gave money were told that they would return profit, and they never did.
Instead, the collected money was used fraudulently to make payments on a $1.75 million home in Springfield, Va. and lure in new investors, according to court documents. A reported $1.4 million in microlending money was squandered, and the company failed, the report said. The couple then began another firm focused on the Nigerian oil industry. Again, investors were misled to believe that they would make money which never materialized. Instead, the second company folded, triggering a more than $600,000 loss for investors. Much of the money in the second scam also went to pay the couple’s personal expenses, including golf games and rent, prosecutors believed.
Terry Millender was found guilty of 31 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, false-tax-return filing and obstruction. His wife was his declared guilty only for seven counts. Both of them face up to 20 years in prison when they are sentenced in March.
The pastor contended that he acted “stupidly, not criminally — not from my heart” and was only guilty of financial mismanagement. He denied any cunning trickery and said he had only made an attempt to “make a difference in the lives of people” in Africa and South America.
A company insider who supposedly worked with the Millenders buckled under pressure in court. Grenetta Wells, who was chief operating officer of the microlending company, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and testified against the couple, the Post reported. Some victims of the couple’s scam had no idea of any wrong-doing until they didn’t get their money back, said a former parishioner to ABC 7 WJLA. The ex-congregant said she “got really angry when they saw the pastor driving a fancy car, wearing tailored suits and living in a beautiful home.”