What makes the Greater Ministries International one of the most significant Ponzi schemes of all time isn't just the size of the money involved nearly half a billion dollars it was the way that Gerald Payne extracted that sum. In the mid 1990s, Payne preyed on nearly 18,000 people by telling them he would double their money through divinely-inspired investments. He invoked scripture to bilk people out of money, promising enormous returns and telling his victims he was investing on gold, silver and foreign debt. In reality, Payne was cashing hundreds of checks for just under the $10,000 reporting limit, which caught the eye of the IRS. When investigators traced their way to the checking account he shared with his wife, Betty, it contained nearly $20 million. When the Paynes were prosecuted, Gerald said that the money had been gifted, not invested. The couple later claimed that their First Amendment Rights as a church were being violated. When they were found guilty of felonies, Gerald received 27 years in prison and Betty twelve and a half.
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