Toronto police have accused a local pastor and his wife of defrauding more than 200 parishioners out of nearly $9 million in a massive Ponzi scheme. Marlon Gary Hibbert, 49, and Verna Hibbert, 48, were charged with thirty-eight counts of fraud are facing thirty-eight counts of fraud. In addition, Lorraine Bahlmann, an administrative clerk, was also charged with fraud in connection with her role in sending falsified account statements to victims. The Hibberts could face decades in prison if convicted of the fraud charges.
According to authorities, the fraud occurred between 2005 and 2010, when Marlon Hibbert served as pastor at the Masonic Church of God. Parishioners were solicited to invest with Hibbert, who claimed that he could deliver annual returns of 8.5% by engaging in foreign exchange ("forex") trading. Based on these promises, at least parishioners are thought to have invested nearly $9 million.
However, Hibbert did not engage in forex trading, but instead ran an elaborate Ponzi scheme that used investor funds to sustain a luxurious lifestyle that included expensive cars and high-end homes. Victims who thought they were receiving their promised interest payments were instead being paid with funds from incoming investors.
The news comes several years after Hibbert was the subject of an inquiry by the Ontario Securities Commission after he ran a similar fraud while operating the Dominion World Outreach Ministries. Hibbert did not appear for the hearing, and was later found to have committed fraud in what one of the OSC commissions called one of the worst frauds he had ever seen.
Toronto police believe many more victims remain unaccounted for, and are urging them to come forward.