On April 15 - Tax Day - Abraham Kennard will return to federal court in Rome to receive a sentence on the 116 fraud charges of which he was convicted Monday, including mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and income-tax evasion.
The former Dade County resident could receive around 30 years in prison for the crimes, according to estimates from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors spent the better part of the past month laying out their case against Kennard, 46, presenting evidence to show that the defendant used his company, Network International Investment Corporation, as a vehicle for a multi-million dollar advance-fee fraud scheme.
Government records show that between May 2001 and October 2002, Kennard scammed almost $9 million from 1,600 churches and nonprofit organizations in 41 states. Witnesses testified during trial that he promised members of NIIC's "Church Funding Project" $500,000 in forgivable loans or grants for every $3,000 in membership fees paid up front.
According to prosecutors, Kennard never intended to fulfill that promise. Even if he had tried, they said, the plan was a mathematical impossibility.
According to Kennard, who served as his own lawyer in the case, trust in God would have eventually ensured that the plan worked out, since God is the ultimate financial provider.
He will appeal the conviction, according to his advisory counsel, court-appointed attorney Michael Trost of Atlanta. Trost, who had taken over duties for the defense by the tail end of the case, said after the verdict was read Monday that Kennard "remains guardedly optimistic."
Trost deemed the case the hardest he has ever tried in his 32-year law career, in part because Kennard's decision to represent himself "made a difficult case even more difficult to try."
The trial stretched out from jury selection on Jan. 10 to the announcement of the verdict on Monday afternoon. As he dismissed jurors, U.S. District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy joked, "You all have been here so long, I hate to let you go. But," he added with a chuckle, "I know you're ready."
The panel deliberated for about five hours on Friday afternoon, but were instructed to start over around 10:45 Monday morning after a juror fell ill and an alternate was called in to take her place.
Just a few hours later, around 1:45 p.m., the panel returned to the courtroom with verdict in hand. Kennard remained expressionless as the jury was polled.
He then decided to waive his right to a forfeiture hearing by a jury, paving the way for Judge Murphy to file a preliminary order of forfeiture for the approximately $1 million worth of goods - including his Wildwood property, cash, vehicles, Jet Skis and a number of other "toys" - he purchased with NIIC proceeds.
Murphy will handle the $8.7 million monetary judgment the government had requested from Kennard at sentencing.
Also at the April 15 sentencing hearing will be three co-defendants in the case: Kennard's half-brother, Alvin Jasper; his cousin and ex-girlfriend, Jannie Trammel; and his brother, LaBoyce Kennard.
The three were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. Jasper pleaded guilty October 4, and Trammel entered her guilty plea on January 11, just before opening arguments began in the trial.
LaBoyce Kennard, who stood trial with his brother, was convicted of the conspiracy charge Monday afternoon. His court-appointed lawyer, Giles Jones of Calhoun, said the verdict "surprised me, but it didn't shock me."
While Abraham Kennard will remain in custody at a federal facility in Centre, Ala., LaBoyce Kennard - whose bond was revoked mid-trial - was able to leave court on Monday on a new $10,000 bond.
A fifth defendant, Dalton attorney R. Scott Cunningham, will be tried separately. The date of his trial has not yet been set. Cunningham was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.