A pair of “pastors” who operated a “virtual church” that allegedly scammed millions of dollars from Vietnamese worshipers is now under investigation.
Kent R.E. Whitney, 37, and David Lee Parrish, 47, are being accused of defrauding hundreds of Vietnamese investors out of $25 million in their Church for the Healthy Self, located at a strip mall in Westminster, California.
According to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) complaint, Whitney founded the church in 2014, just three months after finishing a 44-month sentence for swindling investors out of $600,000 in a $96 million commodities scam.
Meanwhile, Parrish assisted Whitney in starting the church and acted as a co-pastor.
The church, which connected with followers through presentations, radio/TV ads and YouTube videos, allegedly relied on an investment strategy that branded its clergy as having a “special connection with God.” Targets appeared to be older Vietnamese people in the Westminster and San Jose areas, according to the Orange County Register.
Whitney and Parrish allegedly promised that contributions to their trust — which invests in the reinsurance industry — will yield annual tax deductible returns of up to 43% with “minimal to no risk.” Those who generate $10,000 through referrals also get a $100 bonus.
Whitney and Parrish are suspected of using the investments to buy Rolex watches, Gucci apparel, a Bentley automobile and some guns. Additionally, they are being accused of using the money to pay between $7,500 and $11,000 a month for rent for several properties in Newport Beach.
Both have not yet been charged but are being investigated under the FBI, which shut down the church on March 14 and recovered $4.4 million from its bank accounts.
For now, attorneys are helping the federal government to recover money for alleged victims, MyNewsLA.com reported. Those who seek to get their funds back may head over to www.donlinrecano.com/receivership for more information.
“It’s very sad — it appears that some people gave their life savings thinking they were making a safe investment with an organization that claimed the investments were backed by the FDIC and SIPC and associated with a legitimate, tax-exempt church,” said Kyra Andrassy, an attorney working to identify victims and assets, according to Business Wire. “Unless we uncover a lot more funds and assuming the amount invested is as we suspect, these victims stand to get little money back.”
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