In a double-your-money scam, remarkably similar to the New Era Philanthropy scandal (CT, Oct. 27, 1997, p. 86), a Los Angeles-area woman has been convicted in a $4.4 million fraud case.

After the March 6 verdict in Wichita, Kansas, federal Judge Monti Belot denounced Priscilla Deters, 63, as a "danger to any honest person." Deters could be sentenced to four years in prison for each of the 12 counts. She could also be fined up to $250,000. Sentencing is set for May 22.

Deters's company, Productions Plus, promised church groups it would make "matching gifts" for their projects if they first put up "deposits," which Deters held for a year.

"The premise is savings and convenience and the result is good," her materials stated. In response, church groups in 21 states, mainly evangelical Nazarenes and Friends (Quakers), poured nearly $6.5 million into Productions Plus between 1990 and 1995. Deters pledged that funds would be kept safe in certificates of deposit, while matching gifts were to come from highly profitable businesses she ran. "I am a service agency without a fee," Deters stated in 1991. "I have one purpose, and that is to bring service to the community."

EARLY PAYOFFS: While slightly more than $2 million made its way back to investors, checks and bank statements detailed how she paid off early depositors with money from later ones in a classic Ponzi scheme. Prosecutors showed that Deters, instead of safeguarding her clients' funds, spent $4.4 million on herself and her family.

"If there were business profits," says Kansas State investigator Gary Fulton, who searched six years of bank records, "I never found them." Deters gave more than $1 million to her four sons for work performed for Productions Plus. She gave a $200,000 ...

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