Fla. Pastor Pleads Guilty to Ponzi Scheme, Could Face 20 Years in Prison

A pastor in Florida has recently pleaded guilty to the charges of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that may have stolen millions from investors and could face up-to 20 years in prison.

Pastor Charles Lawrence Kennedy Jr., a 71-year-old resident of Tampa, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Denver, Colo.

Prosecutors argued that Kennedy and some cohorts in Colorado took as much as $5 million from investors across the country October 2005 through December 2008, reported Ryan Parker of the Denver Post.

"Kennedy solicited investments from fellow pastors and members of their congregations through his company, Keys to Life Corporation, and promised for every $1,000 invested, the minimum return would be $1 million, which would be paid within 90 days," wrote Parker.

"Most of the money raised was used for personal belongings and expenses with a small portion used to pay the original investors."

Attorney John Walsh of the U.S. District of Colorado said in a statement released Wednesday that Kennedy took advantage of his position as a pastor to garner investments.

"The defendant used his position as a Pastor to solicit funds from investors with promises of substantial returns," said Walsh.

"Instead of investing the funds, he and others used the money for unauthorized purposes. The defendant's abuse of his position of trust led to 100 people losing their hard earned money, for which the defendant will now face the consequences."

In the same press release, Stephen Boyd, special agent in charge for IRS Criminal Investigation at the Denver Field Office offered a word of caution regarding the case.

"Investors should always be wary and cautioned of investment proposals that promise high returns on their investment. 'If it seems too good to be true,' it is probably an investment scheme," said Boyd.

According to Florida-companies-info.com, Keys to Life Corporation was incorporated as a "domestic for profit business" in 1984 and lists Kennedy as chairman and agent. It is presently listed as "inactive."

For being found guilty of fraud, Kennedy is scheduled to be sentenced in January and could receive a prison term resulting in him not being released until after his 90th birthday.