Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ex-Flagler Beach pastor guilty in fraud scheme

A former Flagler Beach pastor was convicted Thursday of playing a role in a fraud scheme to dupe several of his friends and fellow church members out of nearly $400,000.

A jury deliberated about 90 minutes before finding Wesley Brown guilty on 19 of the 31 charges he stood accused of to culminate a three-day trial inside the Kim C. Hammond Justice Center.

Circuit Court Judge Dennis Craig, who presided over the trial, ordered a pre-sentencing report before he determines Brown's prison term. Craig revoked his bond and deputies took him into custody immediately after the trial. Attorneys agreed to schedule a sentencing hearing for Brown in about 60 days.

The verdict was the end of a more than three-year journey for the victims, several of whom remained in the courtroom and watched as deputies ushered Brown away in handcuffs. His wife sat in the front row of the courtroom gallery and sobbed as Brown was fingerprinted before being detained.

Assistant State Attorney Tim Pribisco, who characterized Brown's fraud and embezzlement tactics as a Ponzi scheme in his opening statements, said it was part of a nationwide network that included victims from Naples to New York. One of those victims was a Yonkers, New York, woman who testified Wednesday afternoon

Testimony began Tuesday in the trial with Brown, 54, facing a barrage of embezzlement and securities fraud charges. The most severe of those, organized scheme to defraud, is a first-degree felony that holds a 30-year maximum prison sentence. Brown was found guilty on that offense.

The jury also convicted him on three counts of sale of unregistered securities, two counts of securities fraud, four counts of theft, and nine counts of sale of securities by an unregistered dealer.
Brown targeted six people in his scheme, some of them friends from two churches he attended, and other local residents. Brown was a volunteer pastor at Calvary Chapel Flagler Beach, one of the churches that served as his recruiting grounds, and led Bible studies there.

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