News Column

Man convicted in Raleigh federal court of Ponzi scheme that preyed on church goers

June 27, 2014

By Andrew Kenney, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

June 27--RALEIGH -- A 68-year-old man was convicted in federal court here on Wednesday on charges he took tens of millions of dollars through a Ponzi scheme that found its prey in churches.

Thomas Kimmel was accused of using financial conferences at churches to make untruthful solicitations for Sure Line Acceptance Corporation. Court documents identify Kimmel as a resident of Indiana, but for four years the company kept its offices in Washington, N.C., according to a federal indictment filed last year.

The company claimed to be the financing wing of Automacion LLC, a used-car company with dealerships in Smithfield, Washington and Middlesex. Sure Line and Kimmel falsely promised that every investment was free of risk and backed by collateral, when in fact new investments were being used primarily to pay the company's officers and previous investors, according to court filings.

Many victims came to Kimmel through Faithful Stewards, an organization he ran which offered "debt-free conferences" and "God's Plan For His Money Conferences" to churches, according to the indictment.

Kimmel put on dozens of these conferences across the country annually between 2006 and 2011, relying on the churches for travel and lodging, plus money from "love offerings," the indictment states. Kimmel would mention Sure Line at the conferences, then push it in individual meetings afterward, according to the indictment.

As Sure Line's primary fundraiser, court filings claim, he would tell would-be victims that the company was advised by a board of pastors. He received a 10 percent commission, the documents state.

A jury found Kimmel guilty of conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Recent charges against three other people accused of operating Sure Line ended with a sealed plea agreement, according to court documents.


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Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

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