An Alexandria pastor was sentenced Tuesday, Feb. 26, to 8 years in prison for a $2 million fraud scheme that victimized members of his congregation, clergymen, and prospective investors in a Nigerian oil scheme.
According to court documents and trial testimony, Terry Wayne Millender, 54, the former senior pastor of Victorious Life Church in Alexandria, operated Micro-Enterprise Management Group (MEMG), a Virginia company that alleged to help poor people in developing countries by providing small, short-term loans to start or expand existing businesses by working with a network of established micro-finance institutions. Millender served as chief executive officer of MEMG.
According to a release from G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Millender and his co-conspirators recruited investors, many of whom invested their retirement funds in a shell company called Equity Trust that investors were falsely led to believe was a third party entity. To recruit investors, Millender emphasized MEMG’s Christian mission and use of the funds to help the poor, promising guaranteed rates of return, assuring investors that the loans’ principal was safe and backed by the assets of MEMG. Instead, the money Millender obtained from investors was used to conduct risky trading on the foreign exchange currency market and options trading, to make payments towards the purchase of a $1.75 million residence for Millender and his wife, to purchase furnishings for their home, and on other personal expenses. To conceal how they had actually used the money, Millender falsely assured investors that they would get their money back and blamed delays in repaying investors on the 2008 financial crisis, among other things.
After MEMG failed, Millender created another entity called Kingdom Commodities Unlimited (KCU), which purportedly specialized in the brokering of Nigerian oil deals. Multiple victims entered into loan agreements with Millender, totaling over $450,000. Like MEMG, the KCU agreements lured prospective investors into giving the Millenders money by promising high rates of return and short term loans. The Millenders used the KCU lenders’ money to pay for their rent and golf trips, as well as a birthday party and other personal expenses.
Millender also failed to disclose any of the income he received from the MEMG and KCU fraud schemes on his income taxes. He was ordered to pay more than $2 million in restitution. This investigation was initiated after a victim of the MEMG scheme contacted authorities, including the Virginia State Corporation Commission.