Barry Minkow Sentenced in $3M Church Theft

Barry Minkow faces a federal judge in downtown San Diego for sentencing in a theft of $3 million in church funds

Convicted con man Barry Minkow received the maximum sentence Monday for defrauding a San Diego-area church in what the judge called a “despicable, inexcusable crime.”

He admitted that he opened unauthorized accounts, forged signatures on checks and used member donations for personal benefit to steal $3 million from San Diego Community Bible

Seven pastors spoke at Minkow’s sentencing in downtown San Diego, including Pastor Scott Lowther who said the former teenage millionaire has “no moral compass.”

"He abused the people he was hired to protect. He used them for his own selfish end. He used them as his own personal bank account," said Lowther.

The theft “devoured the church he was hired to care for,” he added. 

Another pastor said the damage Minkow caused "can't be restored.”

The defense argued for 41 months instead of the 60 month-maximum.

However, Judge Michael Anello handed down the maximum, 5-year sentence for what he called a "despicable, inexcusable crime."

Attorney Mark Adams had argued Minkow worked to redeem himself by obtaining a doctorate degree in prison and enrolling in a drug and alcohol rehab program.

Adams also told the judge that Minkow has been a "tremendous help" to other inmates and has "lots of community support" to help him avoid future crimes and other problems when he gets out of prison.

Prosecutor Mark Pletcher said that Minkow only admitted wrongdoing because he hoped it would get him a shorter prison term.

For victim Debbie Roller, his sentence was not long enough. She told NBC 7 that Minkow used her position in the church to steal money because she knew a lot of wealthy people in the congregation. 

"And in the end, I kind of had to answer to a lot of people when they left," said Roller. "I was the only one standing in church, trying to answer questions. Couldn't go back to church because of that."

At age 21, Minkow was the youngest person to take a company public and soon earned more than a million dollars in the deal.

However, ZZZZ Best Carpet Company turned out to be involved in a fraud scheme in which investors poured $100 million into fake fire and water restoration projects.

In 1988, Minkow was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of 57 fraud charges.

He was released early in 1995.

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

Former San Diego Police officer Steve Albrecht pointed out via Twitter that if Minkow had served his full sentence, the church would still have its money. "Early release is a good idea for some, not him," Albrecht wrote. 

As Minkow serves his sentence, his life will become the topic of a new movie, directed by Bruce Caulk. 

In it, Minkow insisted he play himself. In contrast, Caulk said he might use real victims in the final product. 

"Movies are made about characters, and this is certainly one of the more compelling ones. Even in his downfalls, it's interesting to watch," said Caulk. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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