Three Men Guilty of Swindling Fellow Church Members out of Millions

[March 11, 2008] March 10, 2008 London, England, Taashi Rowe/BUC/ANN

A London court has found three men guilty of swindling the equivalent of millions of dollars out of fellow Seventh-day Adventist Church members.

The Southwark Crown Court sentenced ring leader Lindani Mangena, 24, to seven years in jail on March 10 for "fraudulent trading, money laundering and carrying on an unauthorized investment business," according to the City of London Police.

The trio bilked fellow church members out of US$6.3 million. Mangena reportedly posed as a trader in London's financial district and promised some 1,000 church members exponential returns on their initial investments within six months. But the men used most of that money to fund lavish trips, apartments and car purchases, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.

Metro news also reports that accomplices Dean Hinkson, 29, and Curtis Powell, 31, were given jail sentences of 15 months each.

"I think the whole affair is regrettable," Pastor Don McFarlane, president of the Adventist Church in Britain, said in an interview with Adventist News Network. "I've noticed that the papers here described our members who have been involved as greedy, gullible and naïve but I would rather say our members have been trusting. Because the men were members of the church they trusted those young men."

Various reports said the victims included janitors and retirees -- people who could least afford the loss of income. Police reportedly have recovered US$1.8 million.

As the case went to trial in January church leaders in Britain released a statement that read, "Our hearts and prayers go out to all those who have been affected by this case. We ask our members to pray for all concerned."

"I don't think we can just bypass what they've done," McFarlane said. Still, he expressed interest in providing pastoral care for the young men explaining that "we still have a duty to see what we can do for them. We must see what care we can give to them and their families."

The church's earlier statement on the court case mentioned that it would "continue to provide positive stewardship counsel both on a national and local level in order to equip our members to make reasoned choices in their financial planning."

"We have to help our members realize that God will take care of them in whatever financial challenges they have," McFarlane said. "We all should be bypassing these get-rich-schemes."