A pastor of a Pigeon Forge church was sentenced Thursday to 63 months in prison and ordered to pay back over $1 million in restitution from a phony investment scheme he pleaded guilty to in May.
Roger Dale Williams, of Shelbyville, Kentucky, pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud and tax charges stemming from his scheme to defraud victims who believed that they were investing money in an “investment club” and, later, in church bonds, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office of Eastern Tennessee.
Williams, 52, was ordered to pay $1.3 million in restitution to the victims.
According to the release, Williams began offering bogus investment opportunities in 2001 as part of membership in an “investment club” which he claimed included opportunities to invest in stock purchases, business start-ups, and bonds. He provided victims, many of whom were elderly, false IRS forms to show their supposed investment.
It wasn’t until recently that Williams extended his fraud scheme to members of King Branch Road Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, where he had become a pastor.
According to the release, Williams sold fake church bonds and claimed the funds would be used for the benefit of the church to pay off the church’s debt. However, he used the funds for his personal benefit. He used some of the money to make payments to investment club members to make it appear that their “investments” were generating income.
He also convinced members to invest their Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs, into bogus investments. He used the funds from the IRAs to pay household bills and car payments and to take trips.
The King Branch Road Church of Christ’s phone line was busy and did not work when a reporter attempted to contact it. A dated photo of Williams, listed as “evangelist,” is on the church’s website.
In an undated “background” page on the website, it says Williams has been pastor at the church for 12 years, helping the congregation into a new building in 2005.
SOURCE: Tyler Whetstone
Knoxville News Sentinel