40-month prison term for local pastor who bilked parishioners

KOMO News, Seattle/April 27, 2012

Seattle -- A local pastor was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months in federal prison Friday for defrauding two dozen victims out of more than $1.8 million.

The pastor, Anthony C. Morris, 48, also was ordered to pay full restitution to his victims, which included some of his own parishioners, said Emily Langlie of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle. He also must serve three years of supervised release after his prison term is completed.

Morris, pastor of New Covenant Christian Center, pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud and money laundering, admitting that his fraud was a Ponzi scheme in which early investors were paid off from the money taken from later investors.

At the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones told Morris that he "did not resist temptation and left a trail of victims."

Morris apologized in court to his victims.

"I am sincerely sorry for the actions I have taken," he said. "I take full responsibility for my actions."

According to court documents filed in the case, Morris convinced investors to provide him money based on false representations between 2003 and April 2011.

Morris told various investors that their money would be placed in an overseas trading program, or used to invest in property for his church. He also said investments would provide a high rate of return in a short period of time, promising to return investors' money in as little as a few days or a few weeks, with returns of up to 400 percent.

All these representations were false, prosecutors said. Morris actually used the funds from later investors to pay off earlier investors. Some of the money went for Morris' expenses and for the expenses of his church.

In one 2007 incident described in court papers, a victim provided Morris with a $30,000 loan for investment purposes, on the promise that Morris would repay him, with interest, in 30 days. Despite repeated promises, the money was never repaid.

Prosecutors asked for a four-year prison term, noting that Morris betrayed those who trusted him.

"They were dealing with someone they believed they could trust," prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo. "The defendant preyed on those least likely to suspect him, demand collateral, and seek other assurances present in arms-length business transactions."

Morris also falsely promised that the funds

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.