The Securities and Exchange Commission announced fraud charges and an emergency asset freeze against a Michigan-based pastor accused of exploiting church members, retirees and laid-off auto workers who were misled to believe they were investing in a successful real estate business.
Larry Holley, the pastor of Abundant Life Ministries in Flint, Michigan, cloaked his solicitations in faith-based rhetoric, replete with references to scripture and biblical figures, according to the SEC. Holley allegedly told prospective investors that as a person who “prayed for your children,” he was more trustworthy than a “banker” with their money.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Holley held financial presentations masked as “Blessed Life Conferences” at churches nationwide during which he asked congregants to fill out cards detailing their financial holdings, and he promised to pray over the cards and invited attendees to have one-on-one consultations with his team. He allegedly called his investors “millionaires in the making.”
According to the SEC’s complaint, which also charges Holley’s company Treasure Enterprise LLC and his business associate Patricia Enright Gray, approximately 83 people from at least 14 states collectively invested about $6.7 million with Treasure from February 2015 until recently. Some turned over their entire life savings.
“As alleged in our complaint, Holley and Gray targeted the retirement savings of churchgoers, building a bond of trust purportedly based on faith but actually based on false promises,” David Glockner, director of the SEC’s Chicago Regional Office, said in a statement.
The SEC says investors were guaranteed high returns and told they were investing in a profitable real estate company with hundreds of residential and commercial properties.
According to the complaint, Gray advertised on a religious radio station based in Flint and singled out recently laid-off auto workers with severance packages to consult her for a “financial increase.”
Gray allegedly promised to roll over investors’ retirement funds into IRAs and invest them in Treasure Enterprise.