SoCal pastor sued for fraud, cheating parishioners

The Associated Press/September 16, 2009

Los Angeles - Parishioners at a church in Hermosa Beach have filed a lawsuit against their former pastor, accusing him of cheating them out of $115,000 in a fraudulent investment scheme.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, accuses former district pastor Michael Maffe of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme and says the church failed to disclose that he had filed for bankruptcy after gambling away his family's life savings.

Plaintiffs' attorney Richard Sherman says that in addition to typical pastoral duties, Maffe gave sermons on money management and advised parishioners on their investments.

Parishioners invested in a Texas real estate development through a company created by Maffe, who promised 7 percent returns.

The suit alleges fraud and breach of contract and seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

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