Individual church members, congregations, and the National Missions Board of the Open Bible Standard Churches have lost an undetermined amount of money in a $5.2 million fraudulent investment scheme controlled in part by a former pastor and a former deacon of Open Bible congregations, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The investors probably will never recover the thousands of dollars they put into the fraudulent investment offering of World Fidelity Bank, Ltd. (WFB), according to the Justice Department. Court records state, “At present, no funds appear to exist to reimburse these investors.”

Open Bible denomination president Ray Smith said in an interview that he has no plans to warn member congregations of the problem in spite of the probable financial losses and the FBI’s investigation of the alleged scheme. “Let’s let this thing run its course,” Smith said, “and see what the rulings are and see what happens.” The 350-congregation, 46,000-member Pentecostal denomination has headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa.

Guilty pleas

In November, two of the five defendants in the case, Willard Thrash and Philip Black, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. They are awaiting sentencing, according to the Justice Department. Black is a former deacon in the Casper, Wyoming, Open Bible church called Sonlight Ministries, according to its pastor, Paul Parker.

The other three, including former South Dakota Open Bible pastor E. LaVay McKinley, were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and the laundering of the money collected from investors who invested funds in WFB, according to Richard Stacy, U.S. attorney for the District of Wyoming.

“Additionally, McKinley was charged with substantive ...

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