ALEXANDRIA, Va. – An Alexandria pastor and his wife were arrested on Sunday for their alleged involvement in a $1.2 million fraud scheme that victimized members of their congregation.
Terry Wayne Millender, 52, the senior pastor of Victorious Life Church in Alexandria, along with his wife Brenda Millender, 56, both of Alexandria, and Grenetta Wells, 55, also of Alexandria and affiliated with the church, were indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.
The charges were released Monday after Wells was arrested, according to a press release. Terry, Brenda and Grenetta operated a company called Micro-Enterprise Management Group, 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, according to a press release.
Terry and Brenda were founding members of MEMG, and Wells served as chief operating officer. They 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, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The indictment claims some investors gave the Millenders sums totaling $40,000, $50,000, $84,000 and $400,000.
The representations were allegedly false and fraudulent. The money was allegedly used by the defendants to conduct risky trading on the foreign exchange currency market, options trading, payments toward the purchase of a $1.75 million residence for Terry and Brenda, and other personal expenses for the defendants, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said, in an effort to conceal how they had actually used the money, the defendants allegedly assured investors that they would get their money back and blamed delays in repaying investors on the 2008 financial crisis.
Outside the courthouse on Monday the pastor’s attorney said, “There was a prior investigation that went inactive as far as I was concerned or understood about a year and a half ago. And this indictment was just issued and the case is back on the government’s radar.” He continued to say, “I think that some people were motivated to get in touch with law enforcement, probably members had made some investments and wondered where they had gone.”
Terri Millender was held without bond until a hearing on Wednesday, along with Grenetta Wells, who according to the indictment, had previously been sentenced and convicted for defrauding investors in a $1,000,000 Ponzi scheme.