The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced on Thursday it is pursuing fraud charges against a pastor based in Flint, Michigan who stands accused of exploiting members of the church, retirees, and auto-workers who have been laid off.
According to a statement released by SEC, 59-year-old Pastor Larry Holley used faith-based rhetoric to mislead individuals into investing in what they thought was a "successful" real estate business. Holley's assets have been frozen along with the fraud charges.
Holley allegedly told individuals he had targeted for investments that he prayed for their children, and claimed to be more trustworthy with their money than a "banker."
He also attracted prospective investors by holding financial presentations at churches across the country, but called them "Blessed Life Conferences" to attract people. At the conferences, Holley would ask attendees to fill out cards with information about their financial holdings, inviting them later to have one-on-one consultations. Holley referred to these individuals as "millionaires in the making," according to the SEC statement.
The complaint notes that Holley's company Treasure Enterprise LLC and his associate Patricia Enright Gray obtained $6.7 million in investments from over 80 people, who were told "they were investing in a profitable real estate company with hundreds of residential and commercial properties."
Holley's partner, Gray, reportedly singled out laid-off auto-workers for investments during a religious advertisement she made on a Flint radio station.
“Holley and Gray targeted the retirement savings of churchgoers, building a bond of trust purportedly based on faith but actually based on false promises," said David Glockner, who is the director of the SEC’s Chicago Regional Office.