Affinity Fraud Underlies Many Ponzi Schemes


According to an article posted by the Associated Press and InvestmentNews, three advisors who called themselves the ‘3 Hebrew Boys’ were recently sentenced to decades in prison. Timothy McQueen, 52, and Joseph Brunson, 47, were each sentenced to 27 years in prison and Tony Pough, 48, was sentenced to 30 years. The three, all from Columbia, were convicted in November 2009 of 58 counts each of mail fraud, money laundering and other charges.

Apparently the men used the Biblical story of faith to create a scheme that prosecutors said scammed thousands of people out of more than $80 million.The men took their name, the “3 Hebrew Boys,” from a Biblical tale about two believers in God who survived being tossed into a fiery furnace because of their faith. In their pitch, the men told investors they had been through the flames of crushing debt and survived, thanks to their secret investments and the power of God.

The scheme also relied on race, said authorities, who estimate that at least 90 percent of the investors were black, as were all three defendants. According to the article, prosecutors said the three men traveled to churches and other gatherings across the Southeast, preaching how faith and an investment in what they said were foreign currencies would at least double their money, wipe out credit card debt and pay off mortgages in months.

Authorities said less than $1 out of every $10,000 invested actually went into the foreign currency markets while most of it went for a fleet of expensive cars, vacation homes, pro football game luxury boxes and other high-end items. Prosecutors said the men charmed people into the Ponzi scheme, and the only reason that investors didn’t lose more was because the scam was discovered before it ran it course.

“They used their charisma to sell snake oil and they wrapped it in religion,” prosecutor Mark Moore said. “They did it so well, some people still think they are on the up and up.”

But there was no rescue Tuesday as they stood before U.S. District Judge Margaret Seymour and took a scathing rebuke for using money given to them to buy luxury items such as a nearly $1 million motor home and a private jet. “Were they called to buy a Gulfstream jet?” Judge Seymour asked. “Were they called to buy luxury cars and condos?”

Prosecutor Winston Holliday said the men knew exactly what they were doing and chose to take from the masses of poor people so they could live the life of the rich. “What they learned by going through the flames,” Holliday said, “was how to burn other people.”

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