Passion for Truth Ministries Pastor Jim Stanley, 40, who told his St. Charles, Missouri, congregation last summer that he didn't realize he had been arrested after a federal grand jury indicted him last June for defrauding investors, admitted in federal court Thursday that he cheated his elderly victims out of $3.3 million while making $570,000 for himself.
In a courtroom packed with supporters, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Staley, who owned a financial consulting form, pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud rather than taking his case to trial. He admitted that he cheated 16 investors, and his defense attorney, Scott Rosenblum, says his client was ashamed and "completely accepted responsibility." The attorney stressed that the crime "had nothing to do with his role as a pastor."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dianna Collins said some of the investors trusted Staley because he was a "nice religious man" who referred to several of them as "Grandma."
"Seniors tend to be more trusting and give people the benefit of the doubt, particularly people who hold themselves out as religious leaders," said Collins.
At his sentencing on July 29, Staley will face six to eight years in prison. His attorneys will reportedly ask for less.
A June 25, 2014, release from the FBI highlighted the grave details of the indictment.
"James Staley was indicted for his alleged scheme to defraud investors by making false promises of high rates of return and minimal risk. The indictment states that Staley defrauded 11 investors/lenders by causing them to invest over $3.4 million, giving him commissions totaling over $570,000," it said.
In 2007, according to the indictment, Staley operated Wealth Financial International, the same year he started his church and the same year he became a sales agent for a premium financing company in California called B & B Equity. Staley, in his capacity as sales agent, found people to provide loans for life insurance policies.
"In many instances, several of these investor/lenders' funds were bundled together to provide financing to purchase one life insurance policy. Staley received a commission for each investor/lender that he found to contribute financing for the purchasing of the life insurance policies.
"B & B required the lender/investor to invest in the insurance policy for a fixed period of time varying from 18 months to two years. During this period of time Staley represented to clients of Wealth Financial that B & B Premium Financing Company would sell the bundled insurance policies on the open market with guaranteed returns," said the release.
"However, Staley was well aware that if B & B was unable to secure a buyer for the bundled insurance policies that his clients would lose all their monies invested in the premium financing product sold by B & B," it added.