The pastor of a Westminster church has agreed to plead guilty to involvement in an investment scam federal prosecutors say took in $33 million, authorities said Friday.
Kent R. E. Whitney, 38, of Newport Beach, agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to mail fraud and filing a false federal income tax return, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Whitney is scheduled to be arraigned June 30 and is expected to have a date to plead guilty sometime after that, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Staples said.
Whitney’s attorney, Ken White, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
From September 2014 through April 2019, Whitney used his Church of the Healthy Self to solicit investments with promises of a guaranteed an annual rate of return of 12%, a guaranteed return of principal with no risk because it was federally insured, that the worst return over the previous five years was a 1.5% profit in January 2015, the church’s traders had not lost money in 15 years and that the church was audited by an accounting firm, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said little of the investments went into any trading accounts.
Whitney is accused of sending bogus reports to investors, prosecutors said. He admitted in his plea agreement to falsely reporting his total income in 2018 as $17,539 when it was actually at least $452,872, prosecutors said.
About $435,333 of Whitney’s income was obtained through the scam, prosecutors said.