Investment scams often target religious communities, with Hasidic Jews and Amish congregations being taken in over the last year. The latest wave to come to the surface has bilked Mormons and Protestant believers out of $17 million.
The SEC has charged three Mormon men for selling their fellow church-goers $16 million in what seems to be fake promissory notes.
The angle here was that the notes reflected a stake in a big credit card receivables portfolio that didn't actually exist.
Roughly 100 investors were promised 14% to 60% in annual interest or simply given a "double-your-money" promise.
The SEC describes the lifestyle of the men running the scheme as "lavish."
And in Seattle, the minister of an urban congregation has pleaded guilty to charges that he took $1.6 million from his own parishioners over the last eight years.
Tony Morris claimed he was investing the money in foreign currency and real estate at a promised 400% return.
He faces up to 30 years in jail on counts of wire fraud and money laundering.
What's especially disturbing about cases like these is that the scammers aren't outsiders coming into a religious community looking to make a quick buck off the gullible. They're insiders who their victims trust.