What Are Some Famous Cases of Religious Fraud?


Quick Answer

In one of the largest religious fraud cases ever, a father and son priest duo from the Baptist Foundation of Arizona stole over $460 million from their congregation before being discovered in 1999. In 2007, Catholic Connecticut-based priest Michael Jude Fay was sentenced to prison after embezzling over $1.5 million from his congregation in Darien. The Board of Regents at Oral Roberts University collectively stole almost $1 billion from the Christian school's finances for the personal use of its members.

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The scam artist priests from the Baptist Foundation of Arizona used Ponzi schemes, land flipping, real estate schemes and several other methods to separate their congregants from their money. This scheme is largely unparalleled for its breadth and length, having lasted over 20 years, unimpeded by local authorities or law enforcement.

The Oral Roberts University fraudsters included the school's former president and several high-ranking officials who presided over various ministries on the Tulsa campus. They were able to hide their misdeeds by periodically firing and threatening to sue accountants who noticed discrepancies in the school's financial books.

Fraud within churches does not receive the same attention as fraud within other nonprofit organizations because churches are not required under U.S. tax law to file an annual information return. Religious fraud also frequently goes unreported by congregations reluctant to expose their leaders to criminal indictment and sentencing.

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