A federal jury convicted an Alexandria pastor and his wife on Monday night for a $2 million fraud scheme that victimized members of their congregation and prospective investors in a Nigerian oil scheme.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Terry Wayne Millender, 53, the former senior pastor of Victorious Life Church in Alexandria, and his wife Brenda Millender, 57, operated Micro-Enterprise Management Group (MEMG), a Virginia company that alleged to help poor people in developing countries by providing small, short-term loans to start or expand existing businesses by working with a network of established micro-finance institutions. The Millenders were founding members of MEMG, while Terry Millender served as chief executive officer. The Millenders recruited investors by emphasizing its Christian mission and use of the funds to help the poor, promising guaranteed rates of return, assuring investors that the loans’ principal was safe and backed by the assets of MEMG. The jury found that these representations were false and fraudulent, and that the money was actually used by the Millenders to conduct risky trading on the foreign exchange currency market, options trading, payments towards the purchase of a $1.75 million residence for the Millenders, and other personal expenses. To conceal how they had actually used the money, the Millenders falsely assured investors that they would get their money back and blamed delays in repaying investors on the 2008 financial crisis, among other things.
In addition, after MEMG failed, the Millenders created another entity called Kingdom Commodities Unlimited (KCU), which purportedly specialized in the brokering of Nigerian oil deals. Multiple victims entered into loan agreements with the Millenders, totaling over $600,000. Like the MEMG agreements, the KCU agreements lured prospective investors into giving the Millenders money by promising high rates of return and short term loans. The Millenders used the KCU lenders’ money to pay for their rent and golf trips, as well as a birthday party and other personal expenses.
The Millenders face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced on March 30, 2018. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Co-conspirator Grenetta Wells, 56, of Alexandria, who served as chief operating officer at MEMG, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 12, 2018.