Former Teen Millionaire Guilty of Defrauding San Diego Church

Barry Minkow pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from the San Diego Community Bible Church

By Associated Press
|  Thursday, Jan 23, 2014  |  Updated 4:50 PM PDT
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Former Teen Millionaire Defrauded Church

NBC 7 News

A still image from file video of Minkow.

A teenage millionaire-turned-con artist has admitted to embezzling and defrauding a San Diego church out of more than $3 million.

Barry Minkow pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from the San Diego Community Bible Church, a U.S. attorney's statement said.

Under the plea, Minkow admitted that he opened unauthorized church bank accounts, forged signatures on checks and used member donations for personal benefit.

Minkow was already serving a five-year sentence for a securities fraud conviction in Florida and could get five additional years when he is sentenced for the new conviction April 7.

He also faces a fine of $250,000 on top of paying restitution to his victims.

Minkow gained national attention as a teenager in the 1980s by founding the ZZZZ Best carpet cleaning company in Southern California. At age 21, he became the youngest person at the time in U.S. history to take a company public, and he became very wealthy on paper.

But ZZZZ Best turned out to be involved in a fraud scheme in which investors poured $100 million into fake fire and water restoration projects. And in 1988, Minkow was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of 57 fraud charges.

He was released in 1995. Minkow became pastor of the San Diego church two years later, after undergoing a religious conversion in prison.

He also founded the Fraud Discovery Institute, which helped the FBI and other law enforcement agencies ferret out white-collar crimes around the country.

But even while working with the institute, he was engaged in manipulating the stock prices of the companies he was investigating, federal prosecutors said.

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