May 27, 2024

Man posing as missionary accused in $30m scam promising to buy Bibles for China

A Georgia man posing as a missionary is accused of “misdirecting” approximately $30m from Christian donors who believed they were buying Bibles for their Chinese brethren, according to prosecutors.

Jason Gerald Shenk allegedly used $1m from the scam to gamble in an online casino, buy diamonds, gold, and to pay the company running his family’s farm, according to NBC News.

Mr Shenk, 45, raised the money from churches, charities, and individuals in Ohio and North Carolina. The donors were reportedly told the money would be used to purchase Bibles and other religious literature for ministries in China.

He allegedly portrayed himself as a missionary to the donors.

Prosecutors believe Mr Shenk received approximately $22m from a charity and its individual donors, and another $10m from another charity.

Mr Shenk allegedly ran the scheme between April 2010 and July 2019.

The US Department of Justice issued a warrant for his arrest after he was indicted on four counts of wire fraud and 37 counts of money laundering, according to the US attorney’s office.

The Justice Department is reportedly not the only law enforcement agency on Mr Shenk’s tail; prosecutors told NBC News that international agencies are also hunting for Mr Shenk. The alleged scammer renounced his US citizenship in 2016, allegedly to avoid financial reporting required under US law, according to WMAZ.

Jason Gerald Shenk, who is accused of defrauding Christian donors out of $30m they believed would be used to buy Bibles and religious literature for Chinese believers

(U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Georgia)

In addition to his gold and jewelry, Mr Shenk also bought approximately $850,000 in equity shares of a privately held nuclear energy company, and spent approximately $4m to open life insurance policies in various peoples’ names, according to authorities. He also purchased approximately $320,000 in real estate in “Galt’s Gulch,” a failed libertarian paradise in Santiago, Chile, named after the protagonist of Objectivist writer Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged”

US Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, Jill Steinberg, issued a statement condemning the alleged scam.

“When people of faith donate money for evangelistic purposes, they reasonably expect those who solicit their donations to act as faithful stewards of those funds,” she said in a statement. “This case alleges an egregious breach of that trust at the expense of multiple charities and individual donors.”

If Mr Shenk is convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison, as well as the forfeiture of any of his ill-gotten gains. Because he faces felony charges he would not be eligible for parole.

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