WESTMINSTER (CBSLA) — Two pastors of a Westminster storefront church have been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with running it as a Ponzi scheme, stealing as much as $25 million from 442 victims in the Vietnamese community.

The Church For The Healthy Self Facebook page says the organization was started in February 2011 with a mission to promote great opportunities for those in need. The SEC says the church was started by Kent Whitney and David Lee Parrish, just three months after Whitney was released from prison for defrauding investors in a scheme he ran with Parrish.

According to the SEC filing, Whitney and Parrish posted videos on Facebook and YouTube welcoming prayer requests and asking for cash, promising investors returns up to 43 percent guaranteed, insured and tax deductible through investments in the reinsurance industry. Instead, agents say they were funding lavish lifestyles with designer clothes, cars and big houses.

The SEC alleges the two deposited at least $25 million in church accounts between January 2018 and February 2019. Those accounts have since been frozen.

The church has been closed and is now under the control of a court-appointed receiver. Furniture and other items inside the storefront are visibly labeled for auction, but attorneys say victims should not expect to get back anything close to what they thought they were investing.

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