Participants in the Greater Ministries program were victims of a massive Ponzi scheme, a conspiracy based on "fraud, greed and misrepresentation," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hoffer argued. A defense attorney contended, however, that they were simply "giving their money to God."
For more than five years, beginning in 1993, Greater Ministries operated what was variously called a "Double Your Money," "Double Your Blessing," or "Faith Promise" program, in which participants expected to double their money in less than 18 months.
This extraordinary rate of return was possible, staffers said, because of the ministry's involvement in highly lucrative overseas mining ventures for gold, silver, platinum, and diamonds. At one point, the ministry claimed to own an international bank and the largest hotel in South Africa.
Greater Ministries' "gifting program" was promoted across the country, in revival-style meetings large and small. Further, many early donors did get money back through "gifts" that usually came in cash through the mail. Their word-of-mouth enthusiasm helped spread the program into all 50 states, until it ultimately took in hundreds of millions of dollars. Then the program suddenly began to implode in the summer of 1998. Payments faltered, and by October they ...1