June 15, 2024

Missionary Jason Gerald Shenk Raised $30M for Bibles—Then Blew It All: DOJ

Federal authorities have launched an international manhunt for a Georgia everyman-turned-fugitive who is being sought for an alleged scheme that redirected more than $30 million from Christian charities meant to be spent on Bible distribution in China.

According to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday, 45-year-old Jason Gerald Shenk took more than $33 million in donations from charities and individuals—money that he allegedly promised to use for producing and distributing Bibles and Christian literature—and spent it on a slew of expensive personal purchases.

Shenk allegedly spent about $1 million on diamonds and precious metals, $7 million on his family farm, $320,000 on real estate in Chile, $4 million on 16 life insurance policies, $850,000 on shares of a private U.S. nuclear company, $820,000 on credit card payments and $1 million deposited in an online sports betting site—which was subsequently shut down for fraudulent activity.

He also went to great lengths to cover his tracks, the indictment claims. Shenk allegedly directed the funds to a variety of shell corporations that had bank accounts stationed around the globe to “conceal the nature of the transactions.”

He even sent completely fabricated spreadsheets—containing phony statistics about how many Bibles were distributed to different Chinese provinces—to the charities he was scamming, according to the indictment.

All the while, prosecutors say he continuously lied to international banks about who he was and how much money he and his family had. Shenk even renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2016—a move that the indictment claims was motivated solely by his desire to avoid financial reporting requirements under federal law.

Shenk’s efforts allegedly kept the elaborate scheme afloat for nearly a decade. Prosecutors say it may have started as early as April 2010, running all the way until July 2019.

Warrants have been issued for Shenk’s arrest, which will likely involve extradition given the international nature of the search.

“He could be anywhere,” Barry Paschal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia told The Daily Beast. “We think we might know where he is. We aren’t at liberty to say where we think he is, but we think we might know.”

Shenk faces a laundry list of charges including four counts of Wire Fraud, three counts of International Concealment Money Laundering, 13 counts of Concealment Money Laundering, 21 counts of Money Laundering Involving Transactions Greater than $10,000, and one count of Failure to File Report of Foreign Bank Account.

He could face up to 20 years in prison and “substantial financial penalties and forfeitures.”

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