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Preacher Accused of Bilking Poor Churches out of Nearly $9 Million

AP, Feb. 4

ROME, Ga. — The Rev. Abraham Kennard shared his dream of a string of Christian resorts with a few of his fellow Black ministers. They told a few more, and the few more told a few more. And they all told their flocks.

Soon, congregations nationwide — many with only a few dozen members — were holding fish fries, sponsoring cake walks and throwing carnivals to raise the $3,000 they needed to invest in Kennard’s company.

For their small investment, the faithful were assured, they would eventually get their money back more than 100 times over — up to $500,000 in a grant or a forgivable loan. What they actually got, prosecutors say, is duped.

Kennard, 46, was charged with bilking nearly $9 million from 1,600 churches in 41 states in just over a year. His month-long trial on 132 counts — from money laundering to tax evasion to mail fraud — ended Thursday and his fate now lies with a jury, which was scheduled to begin deliberations Friday.

The government argued that the charismatic Kennard took advantage of the nation’s tight network of black churches to launch a fast-growing pyramid scheme.

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AP, Feb. 8

ATLANTA — A minister was convicted Monday of stealing nearly $9 million from hundreds of small churches across the country by promising them big returns on small investments.

Abraham Kennard was found guilty by a federal jury in Rome, Ga., on 116 counts, including fraud.

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Original article

(Posted on February 8, 2005)

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