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Guilty Pleas in $82 million Ponzi Scheme That Targeted Christians

Brad Heinrichs quoted scripture as he targeted Christian investors, telling them that his real estate deals were done to help build God’s Kingdom and help “the little guy” have the same opportunities as high rollers. But after bilking people out of $82 million between 2005 to 2014, his massive and complex Ponzi scheme finally blew up.

Indicted in 2020, Heinrich pled guilty on Oct. 6, to two of the seven counts against him. A representative of the Arizona Superior Court in Maricopa County told MinistryWatch Heinrichs pled guilty to two counts of attempted fraud schemes and artifices for defrauding clients to invest in his schemes. If found guilty on all seven counts, he could have spent nearly 70 years behind bars. He will be sentenced Nov. 7.

Heinrichs sold overleveraged commercial real estate investments in Arizona, promising some clients annual returns of 25 percent.

His victims say Heinrichs claimed “that his company wanted to give an opportunity to ‘Christian families’ to invest,” claiming that God was using Anthology “to support missions and that they wanted to pass the blessing along to the ‘little guy’ who normally wouldn’t have an opportunity like this.”

He found victims at church, and through friends and relatives.

Now, some of his 100-plus victims are part of a Victims Recovery Fund that seeks to get back the savings of people who fell for his scam. Some invested as little as $100,000, and others more than $1 million.

Heinrichs and business partner Stephen Hatch created an elaborate system of 30 companies, transferred investor money between the companies, and used 17 different sets of financial accounts to keep track of—and obscure—their workings. Heinrichs told investors that Hatch was a devout Christian.

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Hatch, 72, pled guilty in 2017 and was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution. He was released from prison last year. 

Heinrichs, through his attorney, claimed he was innocent.

Arizona prosecutors said that Heinrichs “used religious affinity to secure loans and distract or dispel investor concerns” in the process of committing these crimes:

  • Overleveraged property without disclosing the details to investors;
  • Used new investor money to pay off loans held by existing investors;
  • Transferred investor money between different enterprises without authorization;
  • Misled investors about the value of their investments and the likelihood they would be repaid when they inquired about overdue notes.

Heinrichs and Hatch gave their investors worthless issued promissory notes, and issued fake “Investment Summary” reports that claimed their investments were growing.

Prosecutors said God talk was an essential part of the initial appeal to investors, and religious assurances were used when clients raised questions. Prosecutors said Heinrichs “relied on religious affinity to solicit investments, gain trust, and assure investors that they would make money.”

From 2015 until September, Heinrichs was a licensed real estate professional at Boise-based  Anthology.

The Idaho Statesman has covered the scam.

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Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.

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