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?