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Three Sentenced For Church-Targeting Ponzi Scheme

Two people from North Carolina and one from Florida were sentenced earlier this month for what federal authorities have called a church-targeting Ponzi scheme. All three individuals had previously testified against Thomas Kimmel from Indiana who was the alleged mastermind of the operation.

James Willis Kirk and Carol April Graff, both of Washington, N.C., as well as Glen Smith Jr. of Lake Worth, Florida had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, sell unregistered securities and engage in unlawful monetary transactions. Kirk and Smith also pleaded guilty to selling unregistered securities. Kimmel was found guilty in July of conspiracy, mail fraud, and money laundering.

According to the prosecution, Kimmel solicited around $20 million for "Sure Line Acceptance Corporation" from investors, most of whom were church-attendees who were guaranteed that their principal was protected by collateral, including cars and car loans. The majority of the victims, however, never got their principal back.

Kimmel and his corporation were issued a cease and desist order in a number states, including New Jersey and Alabama. In New Jersey, Kimmel allegedly went to churches to talk to parishioners about how to live debt free by employing biblical principles. After presentations, he solicited parishioners to buy securities in Sure Line, which offered investments in the form of promissory notes.

Kimmel was convicted in Raleigh on June 26. At trial, prosecutors asserted that Kimmel gave financial conferences at churches, where he would spend at least a few minutes telling investors about a 12% collateralized note program. According to federal authorities, Kimmel was in reality operating a Ponzi scheme.

Kirk and Smith were sentenced to 60 months and 48 months, respectively. Graff was sentenced to 18 months. The award of restitution has been postponed for 60 days.