DALLAS (AP) - A former import-export company executive who claimed to have a God-given gift for making deals was found guilty Monday of cheating ministers and their congregants out of about $65 million.
Greg Setser, founder of the now-defunct IPIC International Inc., was convicted of 22 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Setser, 49, and others ran a sham company that promised churches and religious investors the chance to make huge profits. Some 1,700 investors were duped, with the defendants spending the money on such things as a $2 million yacht, planes and plastic surgery, prosecutors said.
Setser's sister Deborah Setser was convicted on six counts, including conspiracy, fraud and money laundering, but acquitted on five additional money laundering charges.
Setser's daughter-in-law and a business associate were acquitted on all charges against them. Their attorneys argued that both were unaware of any wrongdoing.
The 3 1/2-month federal trial brought about 100 witnesses to court. "Using religion to cheat somebody out of money is in my opinion the most pernicious form of fraud," U.S. Attorney Richard Roper said.
Setser's attorney, Don Templin, argued during the trial that his client was a failed businessman, not a con artist.
He and Deborah Setser's attorney said they plan to appeal. Their clients were taken into custody following the verdict. A sentencing date has not been set.
Prosecutors had argued that IPIC won investments and support from influential Christian leaders, and then persuaded their followers and associates to invest.
IPIC employees promised big returns on the resale of goods that included condoms, latex paint, seashells, scooters and drinking water. In a video played in court, Setser told investors he had a God-given gift for finding the best business deals.
But the company never did any real business, prosecutors said.
Setser's wife and son both pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud at the start of the trial. They have not been sentenced.
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