A Ponzi Scheme Trifecta?

Looking through the news over the past few days, I was surprised at the number of ponzi-schemes perpetrated by Mormons in the news these days. I’ve seen three in the news in the past week, two of which involved men who were Bishops at the time.

First, I should list the stories I saw, noting that not all of these people have been found guilty, and so it is possible that their prosecution is an error of some kind:

  • Dennis Cope, Mesa, Arizona.
    Financial con artist gets 7 years in prison. by Craig Harris. The Arizona Republic, Apr. 20, 2009.
    Dennis Cope asked to be released at sentencing so he could pay back his victims, but the judge sentenced him to 7 years in prison for his $10 million fraud.
  • William J. Hammons, St. George, Utah.
    Plea deal possible for ex-bishop in Southwick case: St. George man not afraid of trial, either. By Tom Harvey. The Salt Lake Tribune 04/20/2009
    Former Bishop Hammons sold investments in the VesCor ponzi scheme run by Val Southwick, which bilked investors of $180 million.
  • Shawn Merriman, Parker, Colorado.
    Merriman: A place to worship and prey. Accused swindler Shawn Merriman may have used his status in the Mormon Church to draw in victims. By Steve Raabe and Miles Moffeit. The Denver Post 04/10/2009
    A former Bishop who was recently excommunicated, Merriman is accused in a Federal lawsuite of bilking investors of $20 million, some of which went into fine art he displayed in an exhbition held in a local LDS building.

For me, these follow on the heels of a case I heard about 2nd hand in Richmond, Virginia, which involved a counselor in a stake presidency, who was also convicted earlier this year of bilking investors ina ponzi scheme.

To a degree I know this kind of thing is old news. Mormons are no different than others, and are clearly vulnerable to this kind of “affinity fraud,” as it is called in the article above abou Merriman. It happens to other churches and groups also.

I wish I understood how this kind of thing can happen. I’ve always expected more of those in bishoprics and stake presidencies, and yet 3 of the 4 cases involve those in these positions of trust, he perfect position from which to commit affinity fraud.

More difficult for me to understand is the fact that the Mormon-oriented media we do have seem to shy away from these cases. I know these don’t fit the Church News, and aren’t appearing in the Mormon Times. The Utah-oriented mainstream media covers only Utah cases (only 1 of the above 4 cases is in Utah). Where on the Bloggernacle are we seeing these cases covered?

Isn’t there an obligation to let Church members know about these cases, so that they might be cautious when investing with fellow Church members, and so that they can recognize the possibility of affinity fraud, even when a local Church leader is involved?

44 comments for “A Ponzi Scheme Trifecta?

  1. April 23, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Kent, FWIW, about a year ago the Brethren issued a statement to all bishops asking that it be read in Sacrament meeting. That statement warned members from being involved in get-rich-quick schemes, especially schemes promoted by Church members. Our bishop read that statement.

  2. Adam
    April 23, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Perhaps those bishops didn’t read the letter to their congregation? =)

  3. aloysiusmiller
    April 23, 2009 at 8:37 am

    The brethren are always teaching us about how to get real “riches” and precious few pay any attention to that, why would we expect the same folks to listen when the brethren preach against the riches of the world?

    Of course in the meantime let’s do all we can to make these Ponzi schemes the fault of the church. Individual responsibility is so passé.

  4. April 23, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Another one happened a couple weeks ago in my parents’ ward in Salt Lake, and the guy was on the high council. Tons of people from the stake had “invested” with him. I think church members automatically feel safe investing with fellow ward or stake members because they assume everyone is honest, so they don’t take the time to do any research or to be cautious. Because of course no one in a leadership position would lead anyone astray.

  5. Aaron T.
    April 23, 2009 at 8:59 am

    As you point out, affinity crime is not unique to the LDS church. Every church has scenarios similar to these.

    However, our organizational structure, tendency to trust our leaders, cultural inclination to believe that prominence follows the “righteous”, and the moral justification inherent in white collar crime do present some vulnurabilities unique to our church. I think this is a perfect issue to be addressed in an Ensign article or Newsroom piece…..but you’re exactly right. The issue needs to be addressed so that we can all learn from this…..and all be more aware and cautious in this regard.

    Brings up another good point too…..is the Mormon Media too partisan? Is there an “understanding” or a litmus test among the staff at Mormontimes and the Desnews (and other Mormon writers) that anything that doesn’t put the church in a positive light is not very “useful?” Nahhh! Our media is totally “fair and balanced!”

    Good post.

  6. April 23, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Aloysiusmiller (4), once again you are trying to twist the post to fit your agenda. NO ONE HERE said that the Church is at fault.

    My only suggestion is that Mormon-related media, whether owned by the Church or by someone else, SHOULD cover these things. If more people know that this sometimes happens in LDS congregations, I would expect a lot more caution.

    Aaron T. is correct. There is a lot in our current Mormon culture that supports affinity fraud. I’m NOT even suggesting that those elements of our culture need to change. I like that we trust each other. BUT, everything needs moderation, and news like this helps build that moderation and realism where needed.

  7. Rameumptom
    April 23, 2009 at 9:27 am

    While I think it is very sad that we have bishops and others doing these and other crimes, I wonder if Berney Madoff wasn’t a deacon in his church? Why don’t we read about the connections the other criminals have, the religious or non-religious civic groups they belong to (and possibly head up)?

    Why must we focus on the Mormon angle of bad stuff? Why can’t we say that there are bad people out there in all religions and all organizations, and these are just more of the same?

    I shouldn’t have to be told to be aware of Mormon bishops trying to sell MLM schemes to me. I need to be warned to use wisdom in any dealing with any person. (Myself included).

  8. April 23, 2009 at 9:29 am

    A search of the online Deseret News archives for the past 12 months shows that all three of these stories, including acknowledgements that the men were bishops or other local church leaders, were covered in at least as much detail as they were in the Tribune.

    You need to distinguish between the Deseret News on the one hand, and MormonTimes and the Church News on the other. Even though the latter two are published and distributed by the parent Deseret News, they are both niche fillers, focusing chiefly on the gospel in action in the lives of Latter-day Saints. Although either of them could report on Mormons Gone Wild, you can hardly demand that they do so. The Deseret News, claiming to be a general, full service news purveyor, is a different matter — if they neglected to tell the story, you’d have a legitimate complaint.

    You’d also wonder about the church’s concern for its flock if they didn’t remind us from time to time that there are wolves in sheeps’ clothing, specifically with regard to finances. But as earlier commenters have noted, the church does do that from time to time. I don’t think it’s necessary that when they do, they refer to specific cases, unless there’s a chance that someone could still be stung by an ongoing case.

    (Analogy: Kent is especially interested in LDS artists in New York City. If one of his flock moved to Chicago, or left the church, or started producing work so bad that it didn’t qualify as art in Kent’s judgment, or otherwise fell out of Kent’s niche, you could hardly demand that Kent continue to tout that artist and his work. He could, but nobody could fairly accuse him of deception or neglect if he didn’t.)

  9. Dan
    April 23, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I think the reason why Mormon media (including blogs) may not cover this all that much is because it is embarrassing. Mormon culture tends to hold in high regard a bishop or a stake president, and thus it is very embarrassing when one does this. It’s also probably because such relatively few incidents like this occur. Personally I haven’t heard many such stories (though granted I really don’t try to keep up).

  10. Mark B.
    April 23, 2009 at 10:31 am

    It’s unlikely that Bernie Madoff was a deacon anywhere, since he’s Jewish. The New York Times has mentioned that in several articles, and has also pointed out that the circles of acquaintances that lost in the Madoff scheme were largely Jewish individuals or Jewish organizations. There’s no need to claim that only Mormons get the notoriety in this kind of story.

  11. April 23, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I have family members who were deceived by one of these men. It was an issue of trust and friendship – not greed.
    It is truly sad that we always have to be on our guard and not be able to trust those we supposedly trust.

  12. Craig M.
    April 23, 2009 at 10:58 am
  13. April 23, 2009 at 11:37 am

    I think some of these guys probably really think/hope their investment schemes will work out. I bet some of them have some Mormon naivete too that if they mean well and pay their tithing and try to help others, the Lord will make up the difference. Of course, they also have terribly high levels of self-deception, and some no doubt really are calculating predators, at least on some level. Most are likely a mix of all of these things.

  14. Aaron T.
    April 23, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Good point on distinguishing between Dnews and Church News and Mormontimes. So, regarding Church News and Mormontimes, then, more specifically:

    “…..they are both niche fillers, focusing chiefly on the gospel in action in the lives of Latter-day Saints.”

    Absolutely true – and since they are both niche fillers, focusing not only on the gospel in action in the lives of Latter-day Saints, but also on things unique to our culture, it would be a great service to cover this type of thing in a general way. I’m not saying that every member, bishop or Stake President who does something wrong should be racked up in the Mormon-based fishwrap….but when there is a trend, where members have been taken advantage of as the result of some cultural, or associational aspect of Mormonism, I don’t see why those two publications wouldn’t do everyone a favor.

  15. aloysiusmiller
    April 23, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Kent you said:

    “Isn’t there an obligation to let Church members know about these cases, so that they might be cautious when investing with fellow Church members, and so that they can recognize the possibility of affinity fraud, even when a local Church leader is involved?”

    Who has access to members broadly except the church itself? In light of this quote how may I be twisting things to suggest that there may be a blame the church tone?

    Suggesting that this is a Mormon Times responsibility is disingenuous at best. But in any event I think that comments subsequent to mine have put to rest the issue of Church responsibility.

  16. jjohnsen
    April 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Maybe I’m off base, but I feel this is a larger issue for our church than others. A Jewish rabbi or a Catholic priest probably isn’t also a financial consultant or and investor, Bishops and Stake Presidents could easily mix investing “opportunities” in with spiritual advice. I don’t think it’s a church problem other than the way our church is set up gives more of chance for this to happen.

  17. RT
    April 23, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Mormons do lots of things on account of their church membership that aren’t covered in the Church News/Mormon Times. We buy homes in certain areas because of “how good the ward is,” yet there’s no reporting in those publications about which wards are more or less desirable. We choose doctors or lawyers based on social connections made through church, yet there’s no reporting on how those turned out. We buy church books written by general authorities, yet there’s no reporting on how well those books are selling or what the royalties are.

    The Mormon Times/Church News don’t report on those things–or the myriad other similarly themed Mormon news stories–because those two publications aren’t “newspapers.” They don’t have beat reporters, and they don’t even pretend to cover all the Mormon news that’s fit to print.

    They are what they are–appendages to the Ensign, designed to give us gospel messages and sanitized cultural stories. It’s silly to suggest otherwise.

  18. RT
    April 23, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    As for the broader question of Mormon susceptibility to these things, I’m not sure I agree that the church has anything to do with it at all.

    I think there’s a real danger of confusing correlation and causation. Yes, there’s been a number of cases in which Mormons have invested in Mormon-run Ponzi schemes. But all three of the post’s examples are from the Mormon Corridor. That, I think, is the most obvious link, not the church itself.

    For example, as a Mormon Corridor resident, I’m willing to bet that most of the people who I do business with are Mormon, not by design, but by population demographics. Is the Church influencing me to have my taxes done by a Mormon CPA, or go to a Mormon dentist, or rent movies from a Mormon-managed video store? No. Those are all questions of demography, not church influence.

    Put it differently. I’m an attorney, and I used to do some malpractice work. In most cases I worked on, Mormon plaintiffs were suing their Mormon doctors. Is that a sign that the church was responsible for either (1) the shoddy medical work being done, or (2) the propensity of the victims to sue? No, not at all. It just so happened these incidents occurred in an area with a lot of Mormons.

    While I do think there is some tendency on our part to trust our leaders and all, I don’t think that goes so far as has been suggested. It’s clearly a factor in some cases, and perhaps THE factor in others, but as a general trend? I think the investors are being nailed by their own bad business decisions, not the church’s supposed transgressions.

  19. April 23, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    This can be serious stuff. A relative of mine is still being harassed by the IRS after a quarter century. She invested with lots of other Mormons in a company started by a friend who was a bishop. The guy went to prison and the investors/partners were left with the tremendous tax liability.

  20. April 23, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I agree completely with RT, unless — and I don’t know whether or not this is a factor in any of the particular cases listed here — the perpetrator approaches his victim with a particularly Mormon sales pitch: “You can trust me; here’s my temple recommend.” “When we score big, we can both make contributions to the building of a new temple.” “The Lord will bless our venture because He knows you are supporting your son on his mission.”

    I’ve learned that when potential clients assure me of their commitment to pay by telling me they have a temple recommend, I absolutely should get payment up front. Any potential investor should beware of inappropriate tactics like these, too.

    But if the crook is only peddling his wares by appealing to the greed shared by everyone, not preying specifically on a shared Mormonism, then geography probably does have a huge amount to do with it.

  21. bbell
    April 23, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I tend to agree with the 2nd paragraph of #23. My exprience is in the bible belt though.

    I have learned thru exp. that those here in the bible belt that wear their Christian beliefs on their sleeve tend to be more prone to slow pay and engage in deception in their business dealings.

    Its almost like its a tactic in negotiations.

  22. Aaron T.
    April 23, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Again, this isn’t just a problem for Mormons….it’s a problem for every social institution/religion where a bunch of people who share values get together and share social interaction.

    That being said, in these cases, this IS a Mormon issue because the people involved in the schemes cited here ARE Mormon, and it appears that church leaders recruited their flock – and church members recruited fellow members. I’m confused as to why we can’t say that the church’s social structure provided a manner and means in these cases? Again, we’re not alone…..but in these cases, it was our structure that helped to facilitate the fraud. I’m not saying the church did anything wrong. They didn’t. But the structure and community of “oneness” we all love was possibly used as part of the scheme. In reality, the church may have been used. I guess I would just like to see these not so fun topics squarely addressed in “faithful publications” like Mormontimes, etc.

    I’m sure Bishop whoever didn’t necessarily weild his temple recommend while making a pitch, it’s obviously going to be more subtle. “I thought I could trust him because I saw him at ward temple night” or “I thought I was safe because he was our bishop.”

  23. April 23, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I’m confused as to why we can’t say that the church’s social structure provided a manner and means in these cases? Again, we’re not alone…..but in these cases, it was our structure that helped to facilitate the fraud.

    I think we don’t say that, Aaron T., for the reasons that RT outlines in 21. Yes, it could have been the church structure that brought victims and perpetrators together, but it could as easily have been the structure of the PTA, or the local softball league, or the Elks’ Club, or the John Jones for President Club. You recruit people you meet, wherever you meet people, for business (legitimate or illegitimate) or social or romantic purposes. Mormons meet other Mormons either at church or because, as RT says, so many of the people you meet in the Mormon Corridor are Mormons.

  24. Aaron T.
    April 23, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Coulda woulda shoulda….in this case it wasn’t the Elk’s Club or the PTA, it was our church….that’s the point.

  25. Mark
    April 23, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I am an attorney in Salt Lake, and I specialize in securities fraud cases. I constantly get calls from people who invested with someone in their ward and need my advice on how to get their money back. Stories that involve church leaders or large dollar figures get picked up by the press (for obvious reasons) but for each of those cases there are many many more that involve active LDS members who have solicited others in their ward.

    Every week I hear heart-breaking stories of families who have lost their life savings in get rich quick investment schemes. Just this week there was a new Utah County case involving a guy named Jeffrey Mowen (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705298766/Lindon-man-indicted-in-Ponzi-scheme.html). I have heard that some of the evidence gathered by investigators in that case included ward phone books with dollar figures written in the margins for each person who invested. He was indicted this week, but has fled the country. He speaks fluent Spanish and is allegedly hiding out in Panama. Those missionary language skills really can come in handy!

    I was interviewed for the Merriman story Kent linked in his posting above. When the Denver Post reported called me about it he asked one particularly troubling question; he asked whether there is something in the Mormon theology that promotes this? Of course the answer is no (isn’t it?) but I often wonder if there might be something in our culture that does… Do we ever associate worldly success with righteousness in Mormon culture?

    You can blame naivete or greed, but the fact is that church members fall victim to these schemes all the time. Judging by the volume of calls I am getting, it is FAR more often than anyone realizes — keep in mind that most people don’t want to publicize the fact that they have been scammed. Why Mormons? Is it more prevalent in our culture than others? I don’t really know, but I do think there is a cultural explanation for it, and it scares me.

    Trusting one another is good, but only to a point. When investing, one should always do due diligence — regardless of who is soliciting the investment.

    For anyone who is interested, here is a link to an article I wrote on this issue that was recently published in the Salt Lake Tribune. I offered it to the Deseret News, but they were not interested.

  26. April 23, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Ardis (9), it is clearly true that I didn’t do any kind of search on whether these stories have been covered. I do think that I’m fairly well versed, reading most Mormon news that shows up, and I didn’t see these before this week, and I haven’t seen any of these problems show up in comments on the Bloggernacle (although Bill (20) points out a blog I don’t know well, but should because Bruce comments here all the time).

    The larger question here (in terms of media) is simply whether or not enough information about these frauds are getting to the Mormon public.

    I recognize that the Church has made occasional statements, and that local news stories have covered this issue. But I do have to observe that this really doesn’t mean that even a minority of Church members have heard of the prevalance of the problem (as Mark in (28) observes).

    So, my answer to the “larger question” is that enough information is still not getting to the “Mormon public.”

    But, I do have an additional thought about this. Even if most members did know about these frauds, would it make much difference? The problem is that these are affinity frauds. By nature they happen because the victims trust someone that they think they know.

    Even if the victims knew of other frauds, wouldn’t most of them still go ahead because “this is my friend, someone I know and trust?”

  27. April 23, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    aloysiusmiller (17), I never said or suggested or even implied that this was a Mormon Times responsibility.

    Just because you think that the Mormon Times and LDS Church News are the only or major sources of news about the Church doesn’t mean that they are or should be. It certainly doesn’t mean that I was implying that they should be.

    You said “Who has access to members broadly except the church itself? In light of this quote how may I be twisting things to suggest that there may be a blame the church tone?”

    Again, just because I talked about broad access to members of the Church doesn’t mean that I think that the Church should be using that access to warn members. In fact, my position is that this should be done by a news source independent of the Church — one that doesn’t exist at the moment.

    By talking about how you twist things, I’m trying to point out that you are taking the most defensive view possible, seeing any criticism of Mormon Culture and the lack of Cultural development as a suggestion that the Church needs to fix something. In fact, that is the farthest thing from my mind. I desperately want Mormon institutions independent of the Church to participate in developing Mormon culture.

    So, STOP jumping on everything I say just because you choose to interpret it in the most negative way possible.

  28. April 23, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Kent, your comment 29 reminds me very much of the perennial bloggernacle debate over whether the Church does enough to teach members about [insert your favorite controversial topic from Mormon history here]. The word is out there in very public places; the Church does occasionally address the issue; no matter how great an effort the Church makes to get the word out, there will still be many people who somehow remain oblivious; unless the word is repeated every few months, five years from now there will be people who swear that the Church has let them down because they were never taught about the matter.

    I don’t disagree with you at all — I’m just struck by the similarity of the debate. If you can figure out how to solve one, then maybe the same solution would work for the other.

  29. April 23, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    jjohnson (18) wrote:

    Maybe I’m off base, but I feel this is a larger issue for our church than others. A Jewish rabbi or a Catholic priest probably isn’t also a financial consultant or and investor, Bishops and Stake Presidents could easily mix investing “opportunities” in with spiritual advice. I don’t think it’s a church problem other than the way our church is set up gives more of chance for this to happen.

    I think this is really very insightful. I wish some of the commentors after you had read it.

    There are things about Mormon culture and practice that contribute to making frauds like this possible. I’m NOT suggesting that these things have to be changed, but I do think that it is worth looking at some of these things.

    For example, wouldn’t it be worth it to simply tell Bishops and Stake Presidents that they shouldn’t be in businesses (except in small towns) where their primary livelihood involves selling to or seeking investments from the members of their own wards and stakes? In the vast majority of cases, such a prohibition would have little or no effect on the leader’s livelihood.

    If an affinity is required for their livelihood, isn’t that pretty close to priestcraft?

  30. April 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Ardis (29) wrote:

    Kent, your comment 29 reminds me very much of the perennial bloggernacle debate over whether the Church does enough to teach members about [insert your favorite controversial topic from Mormon history here].

    Yep, you are probably right.

    Except that I’m NOT saying that the Church should be doing this. I’d much rather see reputable news media doing the job.

  31. RT
    April 23, 2009 at 5:12 pm


    That is a really interesting dynamic. I hadn’t fully thought that through when I posted earlier.

    It reminds me of something I was told when I got out of law school. A friend of mine, who was an older attorney and also active LDS, warned me that a lot of ward members would ask me to help them with legal problems over the years. He advised me to only do so if I was willing to do it for free. Otherwise, I might end up in a situation where either (1) they were dissatisfied with my representation, and thus resentful of me, or (2) I was dissatisfied with their payment, and thus forced to sue them.

    In my experience since then, that advice was sound. If applied on a broad scale, it would seem to solve a lot of the problems at issue in these financial cases.

    THAT SAID, it would be a little hard to make that part of a calling. As if it’s not hard enough to inform someone that they’re now going to have to devote 30 hrs/week to being a lay bishop, now we’re going to also tell them to avoid a potential income stream as well?

    Maybe it’s necessary, but an interesting thought nonetheless.

  32. April 23, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Kent (32),
    I’d actually disagree with jjohnson. Given the scope of recent Ponzi schemes in the news, the only argument I can see for LDS affinity-based fraud being larger than such fraud among other groups is that members don’t have the sheer amount of money that certain other groups have.

    Although if jjohnson is right, we have something new to aspire to culturally—not only will we someday produce Miltons and Shakespeares of our own but, once we get really rich, we’ll also produce Madoffs and Stanfords of our own.

  33. Steve
    April 23, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    One that is missing is probably the biggest of all.

    It is Darren Palmer, an Elders Quorum President, in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

    According to a recent filing, he took at least $68 million from folks in SE Idaho. Almost every dime is gone.

    He claimed to be a stock broker and promised 20-25% returns and delivered them for several years. He never held a securities license.

    He bought uniforms for the local high school, was heavily involved in youth sports and was building a multi-million home.

    What is interesting is how few of the victims are willing to talk about their experience — only 3-4 have shared with the media their experience with this swindler.

    There is a pretty strong argument that Mormons should never invest with fellow Mormons because the religious time seems to override cooll-headed judgment.

  34. Dan
    April 23, 2009 at 9:19 pm



    Do we ever associate worldly success with righteousness in Mormon culture?

    Yes we do. That is one of the unfortunate things we borrowed from the Baptists (who strongly believed that, at least in the 1800s).

    It’s hard not to though. Our theology preaches rewards for good behavior.

  35. Craig M.
    April 23, 2009 at 10:45 pm


    There are three stakes in Richmond, VA and I have immediate family in each of them — including a counselor in a stake presidency. I have gotten confirmation from family in each stake that this information about a counselor in a stake presidency there being convicted is false (backed up from a search on ponzi schemes in the news in Richmond — the only local story was about a man from Florida). Since your rumor (which I’m sure didn’t have bad intentions) implicated one of only a small group of individuals (6!) in a serious crime and betrayal of the church’s trust, I think that it would be important for you to correct on your post.

  36. Aloysiusmiller
    April 23, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Craig did someone twist something?

  37. Craig M.
    April 23, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    No, to clarify (I think this is what you are asking for), so far as I can tell no one was trying to play on the term “conviction” or anything and simply hadn’t heard of such a thing.

  38. Aaron T.
    April 24, 2009 at 7:12 am
  39. April 24, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Craig M. (38), I’m not sure exactly where the problem is. Perhaps I somehow have the place wrong. I am certain that it happened, as I confirmed it with the prosecutor on the case, who is also LDS. I’ll try to look into the problem.

  40. source to remain anonymous
    April 27, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Here in a metro Phoenix office that participated in the investigation/conviction of the first example cited, the sentiment is that a disproportionate number of of the criminal investigations involve LDS subjects. I agree with the reasons why it occurs more often among members of the Church. I would add there may be a general distrust of government that could lead members to dismiss allegations against the perpetrator.

    I find I am increasingly frustrated with these cases, in large part because I (fairly or not) expect believers to act with greater honesty and integrity. When there are so many local leaders involved in scams, it can lead one to question the reality of inspired callings.

    A couple of tidbits that still bug me:

    The attitude that as long as you pay tithing, there’s no problem with it.

    The ward members who show up as character witnesses, citing Brother X’s temple attendance or other church service as proof of his innocence.

    The Bishop who testified he knew that Brother Y went by other names and maintains he found Brother Y to be just like any other member of the congregation. (A side note: Brother Y had multiple fake licenses & passports on his person when he was arrested. I’m sure you all carry those while you’re out front weeding, in your gardening clothes, no?)

    As to your last paragraph, Kent Larsen, would a letter specifically for the Stake(s) involved be deemed sufficient notification?

  41. Steven
    April 27, 2009 at 3:31 pm


    How sad. Just incredibly sad.

    Any of those members could have known whether or not this thief was legit with about 4 minutes of googling.

    Are we as a culture/people susceptible to speculation?

    Oh yes, indeed, we are. Since Nauvoo, the prophets have warned us.

    Do we listen? Nope.

    So we’re susceptible to asinine ideas about mines in Utah, Amway, and now? Madoff-esque ponzis.

    Quite literally, one of the oldest tricks in the book. And yet? Still works.

    And look at who suffers. The suckers, the “broker” and now the community.

    Screwtape WISHED he was this creative.

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