February 28, 2001
Contact: Lucas Hamilton
"Gifting" program scams $1.4 million from Montana investors Deadline for filing claims against organization fast approaching
State Auditor John Morrison announced Wednesday that individuals or groups involved in a "gifting" program called Greater Ministries International Church must file claims against the organization with the United States Bankruptcy Court by March 30, 2001.
The Auditor's Office already has identified nearly 60 individuals and groups in Montana with more than $1.4 million invested in the program. Court records indicate there may be as many as 15,000 to 20,000 victims worldwide.
"It is important to identify the victims quickly so they can recover their losses," Morrison said. "Innocent people trusted this organization and some might have planned to use their profits to pay medical bills, college tuition and home mortgages."
Greater Ministries International Church has sold unregistered securities throughout the United States and in foreign countries since 1988. The organization and its affiliates primarily have sold a double-your-money-back investment program. Court documents allege that the program is an illegal investment contract that targets and preys upon fundamentalist Christians, promising that the funds invested in the plan will double as a result of the blessings of God.
The gifting program is a pyramid scheme, which is fraudulent because nothing of value is bought or sold when a person joins the program. Instead, the money is "recycled" to the people who joined the program earlier. Continuation of the program is dependent upon the recruitment of new participants.
The Auditor's Office has pending cases involving gifting programs that operate in a similar manner.
"Pyramid schemes are illegal in Montana and our office works to protect consumers from becoming victims of such illegal activity," Morrison said.
The Greater Ministries program evolved and is known by several names including "Double-Your-Blessings," the "Greater Trust Gift Exchange" and the "Faith Promise." The various versions of the programs were administered by entities including Greater Trust, 1 John 4:4, Greater Ministries International of Grand Cayman and Ultimate Pension Fund.
Program representatives generally claimed that the funds invested by a prospective investor would double at a predetermined date if the investor successfully solicited two additional investors to invest the same amount of money or more in the program.
Representatives said the plan was a form of Christian social security, which would provide participants with a good living, according to court documents.
The court documents also said that Greater Ministries claimed and touted investment activities including a gold and platinum mine in Nevada, thrift stores, real estate, precious metals, bank notes and debentures. It told prospective investors in the Faith Promise Plan that their money would be used to conduct offshore trades of precious metals and foreign currency.
Anyone involved in the program who has not received a letter from the State Auditor's Office, should contact the Securities Department at (800) 332-6148.
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