Man Charged With Defrauding Church Members

Man Charged With Defrauding Church Members

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News Specialist Stacey Butler reportingCriminal charges filed today claim a Salt Lake County man bilked dozens of people out of almost $700,000. And investigators say his alleged scam targeted members of a local Christian Church.

"What better flock of victims than to go to a Christian Community where everyone is dedicated to certain principles," says Assistant Attorney General Neal Gunnarson.

But, the flock found out the hard way, by letting a wolf in the door. A wolf, who played on their Christian trust to get to their entrusted funds.

Bryan Hawker is being held at the Salt Lake County jail on $700,000 cash bail. He faces 14 securities fraud charges.

Some of those stem from a vision he says the Lord gave him to include a select group of investors he met just after he joined a local church.

"The persons that were defrauded in this case were fine upstanding, trusting individuals."

Investigators say at least four members of the Salt Lake Christian Fellowship Church gave 30-year-old Bryan Hawker over $300,000 to invest overseas.

He promised them 100% returns on guaranteed money, a tempting offer in tough economic times.

"The economic downturn has made it necessary that some people supplement their income and do whatever they can."

According to court documents filed today, Hawker befriended church members and told them he would do great things for the church with the profits.

He also stated the Lord gave him a vision. He said God showed Hawker sitting around a table with ten people. Eight of the ten people were members of the church. He said Jesus would reveal the other two faces another time.

"Nothing is more egregious than someone using religion as an in to get in and gain their confidence."

Victims say he told them God blessed him with a talent for trading.

"He didn't tell them about his bankruptcies. He didn't tell them that he had a judgement against him for $19,000 in back child support," Gunnarson says.

And Hawker didn't tell church members that he had nine outstanding civil judgments and nine felony securities fraud charges for almost $400,000 against him, when he asked the church members to invest.

"The nerve that someone has to face nine counts, be released from court supervision, then go out and start the indentical scam with persons who trusted him."

Investigators suspect Hawker has many more victims that haven't come forward yet. Hawker will be arraigned in 3rd District Court tomorrow.

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