SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — An international scheme involving millions of dollars, fake humanitarian projects, silver coins and suspects still on the run sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie. But this was all part of a case that was tried in federal court in South Dakota right before Thanksgiving.
Now, Nexstar’s KELO has obtained photos of evidence that helped lead to two convictions in this case, including a pallet of silver coins purchased with victims’ money.
A jury found Nathan Peachey, of Pennsylvania, and John Winer, of New Mexico, guilty of numerous counts of wire fraud and money laundering. The two claimed to be collecting money for religious charities and humanitarian projects but instead stole nearly $13 million through banks and international wire transfers. The case was tried in Sioux Falls because they used South Dakota banks and some of the victims are residents of the state.
“The uniqueness of this case is the manner in which they were going to spend the profits of the scheme, meaning that if you put in money, you were going to get a 20 to 25 percent of those returns and some of those returns would be used for humanitarian or ecclesiastical projects, that many of the victims could have a say in what those looked liked–that they could build homes or orphanages in third world countries,” Tyler Hatcher, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation, said.
Peachey claimed to be a pastor, but during the trial, prosecutors say the scheme was anything but Christian and not a single dime went into those projects. The money was funneled through Norway.
“Oftentimes the thought process of the criminals is that we can’t reach it there, we don’t have any investigative authority; we can’t get the money back; we can’t talk to witnesses and that in fact is not the case,” Hatcher said.
The defendants purchased $2.8 million in silver coins, which were discovered on pallets inside a home in Norway. The jury voted that all of the coins and the home would be forfeited for restitution to victims in the scheme.
“Unfortunately in these cases, it’s usually pennies on the dollar,” Hatcher said.
Airport receipts from Oslo also show how the scammers spent the money
“A large chunk of these funds were used by the defendants. They would use these for personal trips,” Hatcher said.
Authorities say the men used religion as a way to lure their victims in. But the promise of returns on investment of 20 to 25% and the promise that investors could choose their own humanitarian project should have raised red flags.
Another man charged in the scheme, Frederick Arias, left the country. He’s a former Arizona detective and is listed as one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives.
Lorin Rosier of Norway claims to be the bishop of an international Christian charity. Authorities say he is in hiding and they want to bring him to South Dakota for trial.
Peachey and Winer are scheduled to be sentenced in February.