UPDATE:: 2 Pastors Charged With Running Ponzi Scheme Out Of Westminster Storefront Church
Two pastors of a Westminster storefront church have been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with running it as a Ponzi scheme, stealing as much as $25 million from 442 victims in the Vietnamese community.
The Church For The Healthy Self Facebook page says the organization was started in February 2011 with a mission to promote great opportunities for those in need. The SEC says the church was started by Kent Whitney and David Lee Parrish, just three months after Whitney was released from prison for defrauding investors in a scheme he ran with Parrish.
A “virtual church” operating out of a Westminster strip mall has been shut down amid an FBI investigation into two pastors accused of orchestrating a $25 million Ponzi scheme that swindled hundreds of Vietnamese investors.
The two clergymen with The Church for the Healthy Self are suspected of using funds from investors to purchase Rolex watches, a Bentley automobile, Gucci apparel and guns, and to pay rent ranging from $7,500 to $11,000 a month for various Newport Beach properties, according to court records.
Earlier this month, a U.S. District Court judge, acting on a motion from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, froze the assets of the church, which operated in a Little Saigon strip mall until it closed March 14.
Behind the church’s locked doors Friday, a stack of Bibles sat on a table in front of a black leather sofa. Resting next to a big-screen TV was a poster touting the church’s 2019 Fairway to Heaven celebrity golf tournament, held in January at the ritzy Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach.
An SEC complaint says self-described pastor Kent R.E. Whitney, 37, of Newport Beach founded the Church for the Healthy Self in 2014, three months after completing a 44-month prison sentence for scamming more than $600,000 from 10 investors as part of a $96 million commodities scam.