Houston Pastor Convicted in $650K Religious Investment Scam

Houston Pastor Convicted in $650K Religious Investment Scam

HOUSTON, TEXAS–53-year-old Samuel Ray Palasota, was convicted for carrying out a religious-themed investment fraud scheme that targeted one female victim–causing a loss of $650,000. According to an FBI report, Palasota was convicted of 21 counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud; he was sentenced to 71 months in federal prison and three subsequent years or supervision. 

Palasota’s victim, a Mississippi single mother with young children, looked to the pastor for emotional and spiritual advice as she went through a divorce. She testified that Palasota invited her to “invest” in a real estate opportunity. Palasota created a fake investment program called “The Maker’s Resources” and provided the victim with accompanying documentation that he drew up himself. The victim was promised a 40 percent return on an initial investment of $650,000. 

In September 2009, the victim provided Palasota the full amount, which she financed through her divorce settlement funds. 

According to a May 2013 indictment obtained by Breibart Texas, Palasota told his victim that his investment program would “purchase foreclosed homes in the Houston area at below-market prices and then re-sell them for a profit.” The pastor also claimed that several investors would “partner with him to finance the purchase of the properties.” 

Palasota wired small amounts of money to the victim on several occasions thereafter. The wire transfers, however, were insignificant portions of the woman’s initial payment–not returns from an actual investment program. On occasion, Palasota would also send his victim letters, infused with religious references, to assure her that investing with him was the right thing to do. These letters were presented in court as evidence. 

Palasota attempted to receive an additional $350,000 from his victim by telling her to sell her house and then give him the money. 

Bank records obtained by the court showed that Palasota spent none of the victim’s money on real estate. Rather, the funds were spent on luxury cars, computers, and clothing. Palasota reportedly spent the $650,000 in just over one year–by the end of 201o, his bank account was in the red. 

In addition to 71 months in federal prison, U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. ordered that Palsota forfeit two of the cars he bought with the victim’s money.

Samuel Ray Palasota Indictment by BreitbartTexas

Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate