LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Rev. Robert Jennings stole $28 million by telling his victims they would be part of a “divinely inspired” international gold exchange, a federal judge ruled. Jennings told more than 500 victims that their money would buy part of 20,000 tons of gold that Israel would sell to the United Arab Emirates.
Jennings and two co-conspirators ran daily conference calls with investors, promising 300 percent returns on investments, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson found. He sentenced Jennings to 12 years in prison and Arthur Simburg to 9 years. Henry Jones is scheduled for sentencing early next year.
Jennings often led victims in group prayer on the conference calls, telling them that “it was God’s will for [the Ponzi scheme] to come to fruition,” prosecutors said.
About $4 million of the $32 million Jennings stole made it back into the victims’ bank accounts as part of the pyramid scam. Jennings spent more than $21 million of the stolen money on his own extravagant lifestyle, buying expensive houses, a Ferrari Spyder and a Porsche Cayenne.
Judge Anderson also ordered the three men to return the stolen $28 million.