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$33 Million Fraud Scheme: Former Pastor Sentenced To 14 Years

For his involvement in a huge investment fraud that raked in more than $33 million from investors, a former pastor of a church in Orange County, Calif., was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on Friday.

Former Pastor

Former Pastor sentenced to 14 years due to $33 million fraud scheme. (Photo: Daily Advent)

U.S. District Judge Sentenced a Former Pastor

In a recently published article in MSN News, Kent R.E. Whitney, 39, was sentenced to 168 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton for masterminding a plan to defraud investors via the Church of the Healthy Self (CHS), a non-profit organization, and its associated companies, including CHS Asset Management, Inc.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, he was also sentenced to pay $22.6 million in reparations. Whitney, who used to live in Newport Beach but now lives in Northern California, pled guilty in April 2020 to mail fraud and submitting a false federal income tax return.

From September 2014 through April 2019, he participated in a conspiracy to deceive investors via CHS and associated companies, according to his plea deal. Whitney allegedly established these businesses, ran them out of a strip mall in Westminster, and claimed to be the pastor of CHS, according to authorities. There seemed to be no sanctuary in the church.

How Did the Fraudulent Activity Work?

Authorities claim that Whitney and his accomplices advertised on radio and television stations in Orange County’s Little Saigon area to target the Vietnamese population. CHS officials would go on television and hold live seminars on YouTube to solicit investments in CHS Trust, the church’s investment arm, under his instruction.

They would offer fraudulent or deceptive promises, such as a 12 percent guaranteed yearly rate of return. Investors, mostly from California and Texas, were also made to think that traders had not lost money in the past 15 years. According to court papers, very little investor money got into any trading accounts.

Pastor Filed False Income Tax Return

Whitney also knowingly and intentionally signed and submitted a fraudulent federal income tax return for the tax year 2018, claiming a total income of $17,539 for the year. His actual income for that year, however, was at least $452,872. The CHS scam had collected more than $430,000.

Whitney was previously convicted of cheating investors in a commodities scam by the federal government. A few months after being freed from jail, he established the Church for the Healthy Self.