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Three Charged In Scheme To Defraud Four Churches And A Developer

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging JEFFREY N. CROSSLAND, RAYMOND E. ROBINSON, and STEPHEN C. PARENTE with participating in a conspiracy to defraud four churches and a development company out of more than $3.5 million.  CROSSLAND was arrested this morning at his home in Santa Monica, California, ROBINSON was arrested this morning at his home in Leander, Texas, and PARENTE was arrested this morning at his home in Buford, Georgia. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, these three defendants devised a complex scheme to provide unconventional construction loans to churches and other development projects.  But instead of helping to build houses of worship, the defendants allegedly built a house-of-cards, Ponzi-like scheme.  Now all three have been arrested and face 20 years in prison for their crimes.”

USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said:  “This case highlights the fact that when money is involved scammers don’t care where it comes from, even if it comes from parishioners at local churches.  There will always be a day of reckoning and today is that day.”

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment[1]:  

CROSSLAND was a managing member of Crossland Capital Partners, LLC (“Crossland Capital”), a purported broker dealer focused on “real estate related capital raising,” located in Santa Monica, California.  He also controlled JC Funding Group, also located in Santa Monica, which was represented to be a corporate entity overseeing various subsidiary lending companies under the JC Funding name.  PARENTE controlled Eagle Capital Investment Partners, LP (“Eagle Capital”), a purported private financial advisory consultancy practice based in Georgia.  ROBINSON was a minister, and was employed by a church-building company based in Missouri, ran Ray Robinson Ministries – a purported consulting firm for churches – and, along with PARENTE, had an ownership interest in Eagle Capital.

In early 2013, CROSSLAND, ROBINSON, and PARENTE began working together purporting to offer unconventional loans to churches and others for construction projects.  They targeted victims, particularly churches, by capitalizing on ROBINSON’s role as a minister and builder of churches.  ROBINSON was responsible for finding clients, PARENTE was responsible for reviewing clients’ financial profiles and assisting them through the loan application process, and CROSSLAND was supposed to provide the funding for the loans. 

CROSSLAND, ROBINSON, and PARENTE perpetrated a scheme in which they defrauded clients (the “Victims”) by inducing them to enter into purported loan agreements, in which the Victims were required to deposit money into a “production account” or “escrow holding account” at an Ohio bank (the “Escrow Account”).  Based on the defendants’ false representations that the deposited money would remain safe and secure in the Escrow Account, the Victims deposited a total of more than $3.5 million into the Escrow Account.  

Contrary to the defendants’ representations, the money did not remain in the Escrow Account.  Shortly after the Victims wire-transferred their deposit money, an attorney who controlled the Escrow Account (“Attorney-1”), acting on CROSSLAND’s instructions, transferred more than half of the deposit money to bank accounts controlled by an individual in Michigan (“Individual-1”) and an entity controlled by Individual-1.  Individual-1 then transferred much of that deposit money to bank accounts outside the United States.  Attorney-1 also transferred nearly $1 million of the deposit money to the bank account of a New Jersey law firm.  Thereafter, approximately $400,000 was transferred to a bank account controlled by a second individual (“Individual-2”), and the remaining approximately $600,000 was used to pay Individual-2’s tax obligations and legal fees.

In order to perpetuate the scheme and conceal the fraud, CROSSLAND had Attorney-1 and Individual-1 transfer some of certain Victims’ deposit money to other Victims and falsely represent that these money transfers were loan draw payments.  In actuality, CROSSLAND never had money to fund the Victims’ loans.  In addition to providing certain Victims with funds the defendants claimed to be loan draw payments, in order to perpetuate the scheme and conceal the fraud, CROSSLAND and ROBINSON also participated in telephone conversations with, and sent emails to, the Victims, with the intention of (a) lulling them into believing that their loans would be funded and/or their deposits returned, and (b) preventing them from reporting their conduct to law enforcement authorities and/or taking legal action against them.

In this way, from April 2013 through March 2015, CROSSLAND, ROBINSON, and PARENTE fraudulently induced Victims to transfer more than $3.5 million to the Escrow Account.  The purported loans were never funded and millions of dollars in deposits were lost.  

*                *                *

CROSSLAND, 63, of Santa Monica, California, ROBINSON, 67, of Leander, Texas, and PARENTE, 51, of Buford, Georgia, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.  The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office.  Mr. Berman also thanked the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, the Knoxville, Tennessee, field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee for their assistance.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Margery B. Feinzig is in charge of the prosecution.

 


[1]  As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment charging the defendants and the descriptions of the Indictment constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

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