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‘Cult-Like’ Scam Leader Gets 25 Years

SAN DIEGO (CN) - John Harrell was sentenced on Tuesday to 25 years in federal prison and ordered to cough up $43 million to victims of what prosecutors called "a cult-like investment scheme" that targeted people through their San Diego-area churches for more than a decade.

Harrell and his underlings claimed to be raising money for the needy, to support religious activities, and for medical research and development, but spent the money on themselves and evaded taxes on it. More than a dozen members of the conspiracy already have been sentenced.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan ordered Harrell to pay $40,556,065 in restitution to more than 50 victims, and forfeit $2,366,806. Harrell led the fraudulent conspiracy that began in the late 1980s. He pleaded guilty to 28 counts of fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and tax evasion.

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