Rome -- Abraham Kennard, a pied-piper charismatic preacher, is accused by federal prosecutors of scamming more than $8.7 million as he led more than 1,600 churches and hundreds of individuals into the financial woods with phony investments. He goes on trial Monday in U.S. District Court.
According to the indictment against him, the 45-year-old Kennard, who says he has a doctorate in divinity, promised churches and their members that they would receive a forgivable loan or grant of $500,000 for every $3,000 in membership fees they paid to his corporation, Network International Investment.
Kennard allegedly told prospects that his Nevada corporation had built Christian resorts worldwide and had $346 million available to fund the loans and grants.
Atlanta's Michael Troth, defense attorney for Kennard, said Sunday he expects the trial to last about three weeks, but otherwise would not comment except to say: "I intend to defend Mr. Kennard vigorously."
The indictment charges that Kennard paid a group of associates to identify potential investors for his Church Funding Project.
Kennard then would arrange to give a series of presentations at locations throughout the country. He also solicited investors over his Web site, by telephone and by using a commissioned sales force.
The federal investigation concluded that Kennard allegedly arranged with a Dalton attorney to deposit the proceeds derived from the scheme into the attorney's trust account.
The investigation revealed that churches and individuals from 41 states paid $3,000 to $18,000 apiece to join the program, and that from January 2002 through October 2002, Kennard deposited $8,756,000 into the trust account. Forty-three churches in Georgia were involved.
The indictment alleges that the attorney disbursed more than $3,400,000 to himself, Kennard, Kennard's girlfriend, members of the Kennard family and shell corporations. At Kennard's direction, the attorney allegedly paid for limousines, private jets and luxury cars used by Kennard, family members and friends.
If he is convicted, Kennard would have to forfeit property in his hometown of Wildwood in Dade County; 20 vehicles; the contents of numerous bank accounts; and dozens of uncashed checks and money orders.
The attorney will go to court in a separate trial, the date of which will be determined later.