Former Clovis pastor gets over 7 years in prison for $2M real estate development fraud scheme

Crime

FILE – In this Nov. 28, 2018, file photo, the Department of Justice seal is seen in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — A former Clovis pastor has been sentenced in federal court to seven years and three months in prison for a real estate development scheme that defrauded church congregants and others of over $2 million, according to the Justice Department.

Sherman Smith, 74, of Monterey, was called a “con-man and a thief” by U.S. District Judge Dale Drozd during sentencing and was also ordered to pay $2,187,000 in restitution in a case that U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said “went far beyond ‘misappropriation.'”

Smith had induced investors, including church congregants, to give money to the church by representing that the money would be used to finance a real estate development project that would have benefited the church, according to court documents.

The former pastor had made appeals from the pulpit, through email and in-person for cash to pay off the church’s mortgage and fund an income-generating development.

“Smith abused his trusted role as executive pastor of a community church by diverting funds intended to help the church and congregation to fund his personal and business expenses,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “While today’s sentence offers some justice to Smith’s victims, many face a long journey to financial recovery from the hardship this scheme created.”

The sentence was the second federal sentence for Smith, who officials said previously served 37 months in prison for securities fraud that caused a loss of over $5 million with 38 different victims.

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