A newly divorced Mississippi single mother with young children was conned out of more than $1 million by a self-proclaimed pastor in Texas.
“Samuel Ray Palasota, 53, has been ordered to federal prison following his convictions on multiple counts of mail and wire fraud,” announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson on Friday. “The Houston-area pastor was convicted of 21 counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud in conjunction with an investment fraud ponzi scheme after three days of trial on October 17, 2013.”
Palasota told the woman he managed a real estate investment business called “The Maker’s Resources.” With promises of a guaranteed return on investment of 40%, the divorced woman agreed to sign on with Palasota for an initial sum of $650,000.
Court evidence showed Palasota enticed the mother with religious-themed letters, fake documentation and bogus investment information.
“Detailed bank records and financial charts were introduced at trial demonstrating Palasota invested none of the victim’s funds in real estate,” said Magidson.Palasota would return a small amount of funds back to the victim that were only a small portion of her own money, representing them as proceeds of a legitimate investment. This convinced her to sell her home to invest even more money with the thief.
“As a result of the convictions and total intended loss, the court ordered he serve 71 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by a three-year term of supervised release,” Magidson stated. “Judge Werlein further ordered the forfeiture of two vehicles Palasota had purchased with proceeds of the fraud scheme—a Dodge Ram truck and a Hyundai Genesis sedan.”
Court evidence showed Palasota “spent Rowland’s investment funds on luxury goods, such as cars, clothing, jewelry, computer equipment, and furniture, among other items. The financial documentation showed that by late 2010, Palasota had spent all of the victim’s funds. Further, by that time, Palasota’s bank account balance was negative.”