Texas Pastor Surrenders to Face Fraud Charges

     HOUSTON (CN) – A self-styled pastor and real estate investor surrendered to federal authorities on charges that he conned $650,000 from a woman, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
     Samuel Ray Palasota, 52, of Houston, turned himself in following the return of a 24-count indictment, including 21 counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
     Palasota “claimed to manage a real estate investment program, doing business under the name ‘The Maker’s Resources,’ and “allegedly convinced a Mississippi woman to invest her money with him in an alleged real estate investment,” but stole her money, prosecutors said, citing the indictment.
     “The woman divorced in 2007 and looked to Palasota for spiritual guidance and emotional support, according to the indictment. During the time she was seeking guidance from him, she received approximately $1 million in her divorce settlement,” prosecutors said in the statement.
     “Palasota allegedly claimed to have a real estate investment program, in which he would purchase foreclosed homes in the Houston area at below-market prices and would later re-sell them for a profit. The indictment alleges Palasota told the woman he wanted investors who would partner with him to finance the purchase of the properties. As part of his scheme, Palasota claimed his real estate investment was ‘guaranteed’ to provide a high rate of return to investors.
     “The indictment indicates he provided the woman with an investment schedule that claimed the minimum rate of return would increase by five percent for every additional $100,000 she invested, up to a maximum of $650,000.
     “The woman subsequently invested the maximum $650,000 in Palasota’s scheme, according to allegations. Palasota then allegedly used those funds for his personal benefit, including paying his personal expenses and purchasing automobiles.”
     If convicted, Palasota faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the 24 counts against him.

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