Barry Minkow, Felon Turned Pastor, Gets Jail Third Time

Barry Minkow, a convicted confidence man who became a pastor, was sent to prison for a third time after admitting he stole more than $3 million from his parishioners.

Minkow, 48, first convicted in 1988 after his ZZZZ Best Co. carpet-cleaning business turned out to be a fraud scheme, was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison, federal prosecutors said in a statement. Minkow was sent to prison three years ago for a stock-manipulation scheme.

“Barry Minkow is among the worst kind of predators,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy in San Diego said in the statement. “He gained the affection and trust of his victims from the pulpit and then stole not only their money, but their faith in humanity, the clergy, the church and themselves.”

Minkow will serve the five-year sentence after he has finished his current prison term for the stock-manipulation scheme, according the statement. In that scheme, he admitted he made false and misleading statements about homebuilder Lennar Corp. causing its stock to fall as much as 28 percent in January 2009.

He’s serving a five-year sentence for that conviction. He spent about 7 1/2 years in prison for the ZZZZ Best fraud, during which time he became involved in the ministry. After his release, Minkow started the Fraud Discovery Institute, which garnered him national attention and an appearance on the CBS News program “60 Minutes” in 2006.

Stolen Money

Minkow used money stolen from the church to start the institute, according to prosecutors. The business exposed inaccuracies in the resumes of executives of public companies and Minkow bet against those companies’ shares going down as a result of the revelations.

Mark Adams, Minkow’s lawyer, didn’t immediately return a call to his office yesterday after regular business hours seeking comment on the sentence.

One victim of Minkow’s church embezzlement was a widower who gave Minkow $75,000 for a hospital in Sudan, according to the statement. Minkow pocketed the money, intended as a gift in honor of the man’s wife who he died of cancer, and sent the widower bogus thank-you e-mails from the non-existent hospital, prosecutors said.

Minkow also used the money he stole from the church to fund what he hoped would be a Hollywood blockbuster movie about his life, in which he would star alongside actors James Caan and Ving Rhames, prosecutors said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Pletcher wrote in a sentencing memo that the case shows “a professional con man expertly plying his craft in an effort to line his pockets with millions of dollars in order to fund his own Hollywood movie,” according to the statement.

The case is U.S. v. Minkow, 14-cr-00153, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

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