The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently announced fraud charges and an emergency asset freeze obtained against a Michigan-based pastor. The minister is being 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.
The agency alleged that 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. 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 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.”
Holley’s company, Treasure Enterprise LLC, and his business associate, Patricia Enright Gray, raised approximately $6.7 million from more than 80 investors who were guaranteed high returns and told they were investing in a profitable real estate company with hundreds of residential and commercial properties.
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.” Also Gray allegedly promised to roll over investors’ retirement funds into tax-advantaged individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and invest them in Treasure Enterprise.
The SEC alleges that no investor funds were deposited into IRAs, and Treasure Enterprise struggled to generate enough revenue from its real estate investments to support the business and make payments owed to investors. The agency believes that Treasure Enterprise owes investors an estimated $1.9 million in past due payments.