Last Update: Thursday, April 17, 2014
|Pastor of San Fernando Church Held for Allegedly Leading Ponzi Scheme|
|Written by Alex Garcia|
|Thursday, 23 January 2014 01:58|
Luis Alonso Serna, president and pastor of Zion Living Word Christian Center, Inc., a christian church located in San Fernando, remains behind bars after being arrested by federal agents last week amid accusations of heading a ponzi scheme that defrauded millions of dollars from dozens of victims. Serna, 61, operated Architects of the Future Investments, which he purported to be a foreign currency investment company, was arrested last Thursday Jan. 16, at his Chatsworth home for allegedly luring more than 70 victims into investing almost $4 million.
“The Ponzi scheme is a century- old concept, but it remains a clear and present danger to the investing public,” said United States Attorney André Birotte, Jr. “Cases like the one against Mr. Serna demonstrate the accuracy of the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. People at the church, located in the 1100 block of N. Maclay Avenue, showed surprise after learning of the arrest.
“We don’t know anything. He’s been a pastor for many years. He’s an irreproachable person who helps families. He’s done a lot of good for the needy. He just had an event where he fed the homeless people. I’m very surprised,” said a woman at the church who did not want to give her name. She added that Serna, a native of Mexico, has been pastor of the church, formerly called “Amistad Cristiana” for more than 20 years and was very respected in the community.
The indictment against Serna charges him with mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. According to court papers, Serna claimed to be a successful investor, but in fact operated a Ponzi scheme by soliciting funds from investors with false claims that their money would be used to purchase foreign currency.
Serna allegedly promised to pay the victims monthly returns of up 20 percent. Serna and people working with him sometimes convinced victims to take liens on their homes to invest, according to prosecutors, who noted that many of those victims lost their homes and some declared bankruptcy. Bill Lewis, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said, “The FBI is committed to pursuing criminals who prey upon the investing public through various methods, including sophisticated affinity fraud schemes such as the one we're announcing today.
Justice for the victims in this case can be attributed to the collaborative efforts of federal law enforcement.” If convicted, Serna would face a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each of the four fraud charges and up to 10 years in prison for both of the money laundering counts. According to Corporation Wiki, Zion Living Word Christian Center, Inc. filed Articles of Incorporation in 1983. Serna is also listed as President of Omega Generation and the President of Architects of The Future, Inc.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 23 January 2014 17:15|