Former Pastor Pleads Guilty in $2.5 Million Ponzi Scheme

A South Carolina man who once served as pastor of a local church has entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors to charges that he operated a commodities-based Ponzi scheme that bilked investors - some his former congregants - out of over $2.5 million.  Archie Larue Evans, 42, agreed to plead guilty to one charge of mail fraud and one charge of structuring financial transactions to avoid federal scrutiny.  In return, prosecutors agreed not to pursue an additional seven counts of mail fraud and five counts of money laundering.  The charges carry a combined statutory maximum of twenty-five years in prison, although federal sentencing guidelines will likely result in a lesser recommended range.

Evans was a farmer and former pastor at the Tilley Swamp Baptist Church ("Tilley Church") in Conway, South Carolina.  In addition, beginning in 2004, Evans also operated Gold & Silver LLC ("Gold & Silver"), which purported to invest in silver futures markets and offered quarterly returns ranging from 10% - 12%. Investors, some of whom included members of Tilley Church, were provided with regular account statements purporting to show regular account gains.

However, in reality, Evans misappropriated investor funds as he ran the classic Ponzi scheme.  Rather than achieve the exorbitant rates of return he represented to investors, he instead used funds for personal expenses, to make interest payments to investors, and suffered trading losses on the funds actually invested.  At the time Evans was indicted in late 2011, his seized bank accounts showed a balance of just $1,919.86.

Authorities also discovered Evans' ownership of two non-profit agencies apparently used to spread the message against homosexuality.  One of the non-profits, Pale Productions, apparently published a book entitled "Nature's Pairs: The Demise of Homosexuality," which featured Evans' 'indisputable' evidence against homosexuality.  According to this order form, the book appears to have been published while Evans operated the scheme, raising the possibility that investor funds may have been diverted to the venture.

Evans remains free on $25,000 bond pending sentencing.