Financial Crimes

Televangelist Ordered to Stop Peddling Unproven Cure for Covid-19

March 14, 2020

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A popular televangelist was recently issued a cease and desist order by the New York attorney general to stop promoting his cure-all product as a cure for the highly-contagious Covid-19 coronavirus strain.

The last thing you would expect a holy man to do is promote a fake cure against a potentially deadly disease to desperate people for profit, and yet, that’s allegedly exactly what Rev. Jim Bakker has been doing. To be fair, Bakker had long been peddling his “Silver Solution” – a scientifically unproven medication made from the precious metal – as a cure for all sorts of ailments, but when he included the rapidly-spreading Covid-19 coronavirus strain to the list of curable diseases, authorities stepped in.

The “last straw” as it were, was Bakker’s February 12 TV show, where he asked one of his guests, a naturopathic doctor, if his Silver Solution, which is sold via his website, could do what doctors and scientists around the world have been struggling to do for over three months now – cure Covid-19.

“It hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it’s been tested on other strains of the coronavirus, and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours. Totally eliminates it, kills it, deactivates it and then it boosts your immune system,” naturopath Sherrill Sellman answered, while Bakker interjected, “yeah, yeah”.

Israeli ‘miracle cure’ rabbi charged with fraud

March 4, 2020

An Israeli rabbi, Eliezer Berland (C), seen arriving at a Netherlands court in November 2014

Jerusalem (AFP) – An 82-year-old Israeli rabbi, head of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect, was charged Sunday with incitement to violence and fraud over alleged miracle cures.

Eliezer Berland, head of the Shouvou Banim sect within the Breslov Hasidic community, was arrested on February 9.

He is accused of “taking advantage of his status to extract money from people in distress, knowing full well that he could not help them”, the court indictment said.

“The accused is the head of a community of millions of worshippers for whom he has supreme authority,” it added.

He was accused of pretending to have special powers to heal the sick over many years, demanding large sums of money in exchange.

In a video shown on Israeli television in November, Berland promises to cure a child suffering from cancer, giving him medicine and demands 5,000 shekels ($1,400).

The medication was just sweets, the charges allege.

In another case, he is accused of having taken 10,000 shekels to treat a woman suffering from lung cancer.

The woman died and her daughter filed a complaint.

In 2016, he was jailed for 18 months after sexually assaulting three women.

The Breslov Hasidic community respects ancient Jewish laws in everyday life. Many of Berland’s supporters remain convinced of his innocence.

When he was arrested in February, some of his disciples attacked police, injuring two, according to Israeli authorities.

Berland rose to prominence in the 1980s for organising clandestine pilgrimages to the tomb of his movement’s founder in Ukraine.

The pilgrimage has become popular since the fall of the communist regime.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo: Bankruptcy imminent

February 4, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo faces near certain bankruptcy after posting a $5 million loss in 2019, and with a barrage of lawsuits from the clergy misconduct scandal still pending, according to a financial report released Thursday.

”In response to the magnitude of the number of claims, lawsuits and alleged damages, the (Central Administrative Offices) has determined that a filing of a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code is imminent,” the diocese’s 2019 financial report said.

The diocese would become the second of New York’s eight dioceses to seek bankruptcy protection. The Rochester diocese filed for Chapter 11 protection in September. Nationwide, more than 20 dioceses have sought bankruptcy protection in a sexual misconduct reckoning that has spanned nearly two decades.

The report cited lower revenue from donations and investments as hundreds of alleged child victims of clergy abuse have come forward with claims.

It was the second consecutive yearly loss for the diocese of 163 parishes and missions across eight counties. It lost $1.8 million in fiscal 2018.

The diocese already has paid out about $18 million — including $1.5 million from the sale of the bishop’s mansion — to more than 100 victims under an independent compensation program established in 2018. It faces more than 220 new lawsuits filed since August, when New York’s Child Victims Act suspended the statute of limitations to give childhood victims one year to pursue even decades-old allegations of abuse.

Filing for bankruptcy protection, the report said, “best allows the CAO to manage the claims adjudication process in an orderly manner, as well as to ensure the equitable treatment of all claimants.”

West Virginia Catholic bishop spent $4.6M renovating mansion where he ‘inappropriately touched young priests’ – fitting it with a sunken bar, a wine cellar and a $20K dining table – before church quietly sold it for only $1.2M after he was fired

January 6, 2020

Bransfield (pictured in 2016) resigned as head of the Catholic Church in West Virginia in September 2018 amid allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. He was barred from public ministry by Pope Francis earlier this year

A disgraced bishop spent $4.6million renovating the mansion where he allegedly made advances at young priests before the church quietly sold the property for just $1.2million. 

Bishop Michael J Bransfield resigned as head of the Catholic Church in West Virginia in September 2018 amid allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. He was barred from public ministry by Pope Francis earlier this year.  

A secret report later revealed how Bransfield spent more than $2.4million in church funds on personal travel, luxury items, liquor and prescription drugs – along with $4.6million on renovations to his diocese-owned home in Wheeling, where he allegedly groomed and inappropriately touched young men during his 13-year tenure as Wheeling-Charleston Diocese bishop.    

After the allegations against Bransfield were made public over the summer, the diocese sold the Wheeling residence it had provided for him to David H and Meredith McKinley for $1.2million in August, according to Ohio County real estate records. David is the son of Congressman David B McKinley. 

Church officials said they conducted the sale privately – without a real estate agent or online advertising – to avoid paying commission. The officials emphasized that the proceeds from the sale would go toward supporting programs for survivors of sexual abuse.

The private sale also had another effect: It kept the public from seeing just how extravagant Bransfield’s mansion was. 

Washington Post article published Sunday offers an inside look at the 9,200-square-foot Colonial Revival-style home – once known as Elmcrest – that Bransfield spent millions of dollars retrofitting with lavish amenities including a sunken basement bar, temperature controlled wine cellar and $20,000 dining room table.    

The diocese offered the mansion at 52 Elmwood Place to Bransfield when he was installed as bishop in 2005. Just before he moved in, a plumber accidentally started a fire which caused $700,000 in damage.  

Six people who worked on the home described to the Post how what was intended to be a modest renovation to repair the damage ballooned into an extensive, costly undertaking at Bransfield’s insistence. 

‘It was always, “this” or “that” is what the bishop wants,’ said Jim Baller, the construction manager during most of the renovation.

Baller said Bransfield insisted on landscaping a large portion of the seven-acre property, planting trees to create a buffer between the home and a nearby interstate and installing a fish pond and waterfall as the focal point of the grounds.  

Inside the home, Bransfield requested heated floors and jets in the master bathroom, five bay windows, a sun room, refurbished fixtures and a climate-controlled wine cellar with room for hundreds of bottles. 

The unfinished basement was transformed into a sunken basement bar, where Bransfield allegedly plied young priests with alcohol and made unwanted advances on them. 

Bransfield wanted the bar to be modeled after the cocktail lounge in entertainer Bob Hope’s Hollywood home.  

‘The bishop said he wanted to bring clergy into the room and make a pleasant place where they could play cards,’ Denis Gill, the lead architect on the project, told the Post.  

A crew of 25 to 30 masons spend a year constructing a stone fireplace in the basement, Baller said.  

The Vatican investigation detailed how Bransfield would host lavish dinner parties at his home. Guests were seated in front of a massive portrait of the Last Supper as they dined on meals prepared by a personal chef. 

After dinner, Bransfield would invite guests down to the basement bar, where he downed a half-bottle of Cointreau or more out of a tea cup, along with opioids like oxycondone. 

‘Dinner guests who only visited occasionally were not invited to join the Bishop in the basement for after-dinner drinks, but he expected his Priest-Secretary, the Vicar General, overnight guests, and certain of his “favorite” young priests . . . to sit in the basement and be in his company,’ investigators wrote in the report. 

‘One witness described this as “watching the Bishop watch television”. It was a ritual that none of the witnesses who experienced it reported that they enjoyed.’ 

The report includes an account from one seminarian who said he loathed staying at Bransfield’s home and ‘described multiple instances of overly aggressive hugs in which the Bishop would grab and squeeze various parts of the witness’s body’. 

Witnesses also said that Bransfield would often invite guests upstairs to show them portraits of himself with important figures in the church, some of which were hung in his bedroom.  

Bransfield ‘denied engaging in any sexual harassment or sexual activity with any priest or seminarian, either verbally or suggestively by his conduct’, the report states. 

Police probing sex offender rabbi who told cancer patient to refuse treatment

November 10, 2019

Rabbi Eliezer Berland shrouds himself with his talit (prayer shawl) at the Magistrates Court in Jerusalem, as he is put on trial for sexual assault charges, November 17, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Elliezer apparently receives messages from god through the tiny television he has strapped to his head.

Police have opened an investigation into convicted sex offender Rabbi Eliezer Berland following an investigative report alleging he told a cancer patient not to accept medical treatment and instead pay him money so that she will live.

After her daughter died as a result of that advice, Nurit Ben Moshe filed a police complaint on Thursday, with her lawyer arguing that Berland’s conduct constituted manslaughter.
“I’m here so no mother will suffer like I suffered and in order that [Berland] will pay for what he did,” Ben Moshe was quoted saying by Channel 13 news as saying outside the police station.

The investigation will focus on trying to get inside information from Berland’s supporters, a tough task since they are a closed circle and tend to be extremely devoted to their leader. Many of them have taken violent action and threatened those who speak against Berland.

The report on Channel 13’s “HaMakor” program last month detailed how Berland instructed Ben Moshe’s daughter to forgo cancer treatment and instead pay him thousands of shekels to pray for her to be cured.

Among his instructions were for her to eat a simple diet including soups made only from orange vegetables, something the report said had a significant negative impact on her health.

After intensive efforts by Ben Moshe, Berland eventually gave the go ahead for her daughter to seek medical help, but by then the cancer was already too advanced to save her.

The investigative report featured extensive hidden camera footage, including of Ben Moshe giving Berland thousands of shekels to pray for her daughter.

Berland has long been known to take “pidyonim” — contributions in exchange for blessings. In late-night visits, and surrounded by dozens of followers, Berland frequently shows up at Israeli hospitals across the country, unattended by staff, to bless the sick, according to footage uploaded by his followers.

In one instance, journalists made up the case of a woman declared brain-dead, with Berland promising to revive her for a NIS 20,000 ($5,700) fee.

Activists who have spoken to The Times of Israel in the past have cited several cases of followers who, they say, have sold their houses or have been plunged into debt for these benedictions, in what they argue is tantamount to extortion by a leader with undue influence over his followers.

The donations — provided by ostensibly consenting adults for a religious service — are not illegal under Israeli law.

Long considered a cult-like leader to thousands of his followers, Berland fled Israel in 2013 amid allegations that he had sexually assaulted several female followers. After evading arrest for three years and slipping through various countries, Berland, 81, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in November 2016 on two counts of indecent acts and one case of assault, as part of a plea deal that included seven months of time served. He was freed just five months later, in part due to ill health.

Since then, he has resumed his activities as the leader of the Shuvu Bonim community, an offshoot of the Bratslav Hasidic sect that has been disavowed by the broader Bratslav dynasty.

Church warden given life sentence for murdering university lecturer

October 18, 2019

Peter Farqhuar and Benjamin Field at their bethrothal ceremony. (PA)

A church warden who murdered a retired lecturer by spiking his food and drinks with poison has been jailed for life.

Benjamin Field, 28, was found guilty last year of killing Peter Farquhar, 69, from Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire in a sadistic plot to inherit his house and money.

Field was sentenced life imprisonment with a minimum term of 36 years at Oxford Crown Court on Friday by Mr Justice Sweeney.

Prosecutors described Field as a psychopath who posed an “ongoing danger to society” until he was eventually caught.

He admitted to frequently giving Mr Farquhar drugs and spiking his whisky in the hopes that his death would look like an accident.

After Field began targeting Mr Farquhar’s neighbour Ann Moore-Martin, 83, in a similar scheme by writing messages on her mirrors purporting to be from God.

Field admitted starting sexual relationships with both pensioners in an effort to get them to change their wills and accepted he had “psychologically manipulated” them.

He initially denied any involvement in Mr Farquhar’s death in 2015 and Miss Moore-Martin’s death from natural causes in May 2017.

Field denied murdering Mr Farquhar and said he could have died from taking his usual dose of flurazepam and drinking whisky but was convicted by the jury.

The Baptist minister’s son pleaded guilty to defrauding Miss Moore-Martin of £4,000 to buy a car and £27,000 for a dialysis machine.

Field had undergone a “betrothal” ceremony with gay Mr Farquhar while also having a string of girlfriends, and was in a sexual relationship with Miss Moore-Martin, who was 57 years his senior.

Prosecutors said Field had a “profound fascination in controlling and manipulating and humiliating and killing” and alleged he had plotted his crimes with his friend, failed magician Martyn Smith, 32.

He had also drawn up a “100 clients” list, including his parents, grandparents and brother, which the prosecution said were future targets.

Pennsylvania priest stole nearly $100,000 in church donations to pay men he met on Grindr for sex acts

August 22, 2019

Reverend Joseph McLoone, of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Downingtown, allegedly funneled donations made by parishioners to fund his sleazy habit for at least six years
  • Rev Joseph McLoone, of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Downingtown, allegedly funneled donations made by parishioners to fund his habit for six years
  • On Wednesday, investigators revealed that he opened a secret TD Bank account in 2011 and deposited $98,405 until he was finally investigated in 2018
  • The priest allegedly withdrew roughly $46,000 in cash some of which he spent paying men for sex – including $1,200 to an inmate in a correctional facility
  • He admitted using some of the funds for ‘personal relationships’ with other men

A crooked priest stole nearly $100,000 in church donations to pay men he met on Grindr to perform sex acts on him, prosecutors have alleged.

Reverend Joseph McLoone, of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Downingtown, allegedly funneled donations made by parishioners to fund his sleazy habit for at least six years.

On Wednesday, investigators revealed he opened a secret TD Bank checking account in 2011 and deposited $98,405, which he then used to pay for his illicit activities as well as to pay off his credit card debts.

The disgraced priest allegedly withdrew roughly $46,000 in cash from the undisclosed account in Ocean City, New Jersey, where he owns a beach house.

He admitted using some of the funds for ‘personal relationships’ with men, including $1,200 to an inmate in a New York correctional facility, court files states.

McLoone told investigators that Miller lived in New York City and that he met the inmate via Grindr for a sexual relationship, the complaint shows.

Fired Officer Says Christian Beliefs Prohibit Him From Training Women

August 9, 2019

Image result for Manuel Torres discrimination

Uber-Christian cop claims that he is the victim of discrimination because he’s not allowed to discriminate against women. Ironic, huh?

A North Carolina man fired as a sheriff’s deputy after refusing to train a new female officer because of her gender alleges in a lawsuit he is a victim of religious discrimination.

Manuel Torres, an evangelical Christian and former Lee County sheriff’s deputy, asserts that his faith prohibits him from being alone with women who aren’t his wife ― which he said is exactly what would happen if he agreed to train a female deputy.
The 51-year-old is suing the Lee County’s Sheriff Office, claiming he was fired for asking to be exempt from training the woman.
The 51-year-old is suing the Lee County’s Sheriff Office, claiming he was fired for asking to be exempt from training the woman.

The suit, filed in federal court in North Carolina on July 31, also names as defendants two other small towns Torres says subsequently denied him a job because of his religious beliefs about interacting with women. He seeks more than 300,000 in damages, as well as reinstatement by the sheriff’s office.

California priest is busted for stealing more than $97,000 in parish donations after he got into a car crash and cops discovered security bags stuffed with money in his vehicle

July 24, 2019

California priest Father Oscar Diaz stole over $97,000 in parish donations during his 25-year career serving seven churches in the state. He was busted when he got into a car crash in June and cops made the shocking discovery of the money in his car
  • California priest Father Oscar Diaz got into a car crash on June 19 and was found with nearly $20,000 of parish donations stuffed in six security bags
  • Responding officers were shocked to find the stash of money
  • When asked about the sum, Diaz claimed that it was his salary 
  • A further investigation revealed he had a whopping stash of $77,000 in cash that he had allegedly took from the various parishes where he served
  • Diaz served as a priest for the last 25 years and had connections to at least seven churches in California
  • In a press release the diocese said that the amount Diaz stole was in excess of $95,000 and the diocese will repay the amount in full   
  • No criminal charges have been filed and Father Diaz has been suspended from priestly ministry

A California priest’s not-so-saintly secret of stealing thousands of dollars from his parishes was exposed when he got into a car crash and police officers found him with six security bags stuffed with nearly $20,000 in parish donations.

Father Oscar Diaz of Resurrection Parish in Santa Rosa got into a car accident on June 19 in which he suffered a hip injury. As cops came to his aid they discovered a dizzying $18,305 in stolen parish collections in his car.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

A further investigation revealed he had a whopping stash of $77,000 in cash that he had allegedly taken from the various parishes where he served, according to CBS.

When asked about the sum, Diaz claimed that it was his salary.

Diaz served as a priest for the last 25 years and had connections to at least seven churches in California including Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Clearlake; Queen of the Rosary Mission, Lucerne; Saint Mary Immaculate Parish, Lakeport; Saint Peter Mission, Kelseyville; Saint Mary of the Angels Parish, Ukiah; Saint Elizabeth Seton Mission; and Philo and Saint Francis Mission, Hopland.

In a press release the diocese said that the amount Diaz stole was in excess of $95,000.

However it’s not clear if he’ll face any criminal charges.

‘This money was associated with Resurrection Parish in Santa Rosa where Father Oscar was pastor,’ Bishop Robert F. Vasa said in a diocese news release. ‘After an initial investigation and several interviews, the police determined that the protocols surrounding collection accounting would make it difficult to arrive at sufficient proof of theft to pursue criminal prosecution,’ he added.

‘There is also evidence that money was stolen in a variety of ways from each of the Parishes where he had served as pastor.

US pastor runs network giving 50,000 Ugandans bleach-based ‘miracle cure’

May 18, 2019


An American pastor from New Jersey backed by a British former clairvoyant is running a network that gives up to 50,000 Ugandans a “miracle cure” made from industrial bleach, claiming drinking the toxic fluid eradicates cancer, HIV/Aids, malaria and most other diseases.

The network, led by pastor Robert Baldwin and part-funded by Sam Little from Arlesey in Bedfordshire, is one of the most extensive efforts yet to distribute the “miracle cure” known as MMS, or “miracle mineral solution”. The Guardian has learned that poor Ugandans, including infants as young as 14 months old, are being given chlorine dioxide, a product that has no known health benefit and can be extremely dangerous.

Baldwin, 52, is importing bulk shipments of the components of MMS, sodium chlorite and citric acid, into Uganda from China. The two chemicals are mixed to produce chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleach used in the textile industry.

The American pastor has “trained” about 1,200 clerics in Uganda on administering the “miracle cure” and each in turn uses it to treat about 50 congregants, usually after Sunday service. As an inducement, Baldwin is offering smartphones to those clerics who are especially “committed” to spreading the bleach cure.

Baldwin operates under a ministry he founded called Global Healing. The “church” advertises itself as “using the power of Almighty God … to greatly reduce the loss of life” in Africa.

Yet in a phone conversation with Fiona O’Leary, a campaigner against quack medicine who spoke to him while posing as a freelance journalist, Baldwin said he distributed the bleach through churches to “stay under the radar”.

“We don’t want to draw any attention,” he said during the call, a recording of which has been heard by the Guardian. “When you draw attention to MMS you run the risk of getting in trouble with the government or drug companies. You have to do it low key. That’s why I set it up through the church.”

He added that as a further precaution he uses euphemisms on Facebook, where he raises money through online donations. “I don’t call it MMS, I call it ‘healing water’, to protect myself. They are very sophisticated. Facebook has algorithms that can recognize ‘MMS’.”

Baldwin, who trained as a student nurse and is understood to have no other medical expertise, said he chose Uganda because it was a poor country with weak regulation. Speaking from New Jersey, where he is based, he told O’Leary: “America and Europe have much stricter laws so you are not as free to treat people because it is so controlled by the FDA. That’s why I work in developing countries.”

He added: “Those people in poor countries they don’t have the options that we have in the richer countries – they are much more open to receiving the blessings that God has given them.”

Asked how babies and children were treated with MMS, he said the dose was reduced by half. “Little tiny infants can take a small amount, they will spit it out. It causes no harm – they just get diarrhea.”

The Guardian contacted Baldwin by phone in New Jersey and asked the pastor to explain his work in Uganda. He said: “We use natural healing therapies to help people – that’s something Christians do.”

Then he said: “I don’t think it’s a good idea to be talking to the media right now.”

Asked what doses of bleach he was using in Africa, he abruptly ended the call.

Pope during Easter vigil: Reject the ‘glitter of wealth’

April 22, 2019

Could anything be more ironic? The pope, the master of bling, telling people to reject glitter. We here at are laughing our collective asses off.

Image result for vatican gold

“Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but leaves behind only solitude and death,” the pope said.

Minister at secretive North Carolina church is sentenced to 34 months prison for running unemployment fraud scheme dubbed ‘God’s plan’

April 21, 2019

Word of Faith Fellowship minister Kent Covington has been sentenced to 34 months prison for implementing an unemployment fraud scheme at two of his businesses. He is pictured arriving at court Thursday

Kent Covington – ‘God’s plan’ is to break the law
  • Word of Faith Fellowship minister Kent Covington has been sentenced to 34 months in prison for his role in a fraud scheme 
  • Covington pretended to lay off workers at his businesses and had them collect unemployment benefits to replace paying actual salaries
  • Prosecutors say many of Covington’s employees were Word of Faith Fellowship members and he used his position in the church to force them to comply
  • The scheme resulted in more than $250,000 in fraudulent claims being made between November 2008 and March 2013 

A minister at the secretive Word of Faith Fellowship in North Carolina has been sentenced to 34 months in prison for his role in a fraud scheme that was dubbed ‘God’s plan’. 

In 2008, Kent Covington laid off workers at his struggling manufacturing business so that they could collect unemployment benefits. 

However, the employees continued to work at the company and their unemployment checks replaced their actual salaries. 

At Covington’s sentencing on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger said that the minister had shown a ‘cynical disregard to the law’ and that his actions ‘undermined the entire unemployment security structure of the state’.

Around 150 of his friends, family and members of his church attended his sentencing, according to WLOS. 

Prosecutors say Covington and his employee, Dianne McKinny, later put the scheme into place at another of his companies – a stone fabrication business by the name of  Integrity Marble & Granite. 

It resulted in more than $250,000 in fraudulent claims made between November 2008 and March 2013, according to the original indictment in the case.

Word of Faith Fellowship leader, Jane Whaley, was named in a court document as someone who ‘promoted’ the scheme.

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