UNITED STATES- A Nigerian pastor, Prosperity Moore, is facing four counts of criminal charges by the United States. Securities and Exchange Commission for scamming several Nigerians residing in the U.S. of $1.4 million under the pretext of offering them profitable investment opportunities, court documents seen by Peoples Gazette showed.
Mr Moore, 27, a Nigerian citizen and founder of Jesus Online Church, was charged in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia on January 18 for swindling about 60 persons living in America of more than $1.4 million between September 2021 and October 2022.
Through his limited liability company, Prosperity and Investment Solutions, which he named after himself, Mr Moore convinced church members in Atlanta to invest a minimum of $5,000 in exchange for a 50 per cent profit to be cashed at the end of each month.
Mr Moore, who had never acquired any form of financial education from any institution, said the funds were “for a diverse range of investments” to generate profit, court filings showed.
But the SEC found his statement to be false after discovering that he “used money received from investors to make payments to other investors and to pay personal expenses,” in a manner akin to a ponzi scheme.
The pastor deceived his congregation into funding the investment scam by leveraging his Christian faith and quoting scriptures and phrases like “trusting God that everything will be better than it was before.”
Given his Nigerian nationality, he directed his marketing efforts at Nigerian-American Christians, concentrating on those “who identified as Christian and were of Nigerian descent,” according to the court documents.
On the Prosperity website, Mr Moore offered three investment options he referred to as the Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans. With the Silver plan, investors pay a minimum of $5,000 upfront and lock in a profit of 50 per cent after a 30-day period. A 10 per cent investment fee would be deducted from the total profits.
For “Gold Investment,” their funds were locked in for three months and 50 per cent profit was guaranteed while seven per cent investment fee would be deducted from the overall profit.
Platinum investors would invest their monies for a period of 12 months and pay a five percent investment fee to be deducted from total profits.
According to the scam website, Prosperity LLC “provides you with a new source of passive income, giving you more time to do what you love.”
All investors signed an agreement that they could not access the funds during the lock-in period and would only be able to do so upon maturity.
“Between October 2021 and September 2022, Prosperity collected cash investments exceeding $1.4 million from over 60 individual investors, with most investors selecting the Gold Investment program,” court charges by the SEC indicated.
Judge Steve C. Jones swiftly issued an order restraining Mr Moore from taking part in any investment business transaction in the United States after observing that the accused pastor had not refuted or contested the SEC’s claims.
“It is hereby further ordered, adjudged and decreed that Defendant is permanently restrained and enjoined from violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”),” Mr Jones ruled on January 19, a day after the SEC’s filed the charges.
The pastor, who did not contest the judgement, also waived his right to appeal the ruling.
Mr Jones said that a separate decision would be made later on a payment plan for restitution of funds to the victims.
Last month, the SEC similarly filed civil fraud charges against Dozy Mmobuosi, CEO of Nigerian agri-fintech Tingo Group, over doctored financial statements and assets.