NEW YORK — Someone who you pray with in church every Sunday tells you about a hot investment — do you trust them or not? One group of congregants let trust trump common sense and they paid the price.
Bryant Rodriguez convinced fellow church parishioners to invest in an electronics business.
"If you’re a religious person, you’re more likely to believe another person from your church. So, he was able to easily convince them," said U.S. Postal Inspector Eleanor Berry.
Rodriguez claimed their investments would lead to big returns.
"This company was offering a 30% return on peoples investment," Berry said.
More than 100 people jumped at the opportunity.
"He talked very convincingly and people trusted him," said Berry.
He even convinced investors to invest in cash.
Unfortunately, it was all a scam.
"The people who lost money in this scam were hard-working, blue collared people and they were investing their life savings," Berry said.
In all, investors lost $3 million.
"These people weren’t sophisticated investors and they basically went on it because they trusted this person. And, that’s why they got defrauded because they trusted him," Berry explained.
Eventually, the scam collapsed.
Rodriguez was arrested.
The lesson: never let trust get in the way of common sense.
In this case, there were many red flags along the way.
"30% returns? Ridiculous! Investing cash is just another red flag. Not getting statements — that is another red flag," Berry said.
Rodriguez is serving 7 years in prison in connection with this scam.