Former Clovis pastor pleads guilty of defrauding church congregants & others, $2 million in real estate 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 pleaded guilty on Friday of defrauding church congregants and others of over $2 million in a real estate development fraud scheme, according to the Department of Justice.

Sherman Smith, 74, of Monterey, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, said U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott. He was the executive pastor of a church in Clovis.

Court documents showed that he 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.

Smith 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.

The DOJ said that Smith collected cash, checks and rolled-over retirement accounts to fund the church’s project, but did not tell investors that he used the money for personal expenses, to operate a publishing business, and to invest in foreign ventures.

The former pastor defrauded investors more than $2 million.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 11, said spokeswoman Lauren Horwood. Smith could face 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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