Monday, October 23, 2017

Should Cornerstone Ministries Investments Have Existed? – Part Three

Tuesday, December 6, 2011, 21:39
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The Role of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) Stated Clerk and Administrative Committee in the Establishment of the Presbyterian Investors Fund (PIF) and Cornerstone Ministries Investments (CMI)

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Part Three

by Bob Wildrick


In part three as in part two, documents found on the Internet, bankruptcy court documents, CMI documents, and information given to the author by other CMI investors will be presented showing that the principals and other employees of PIF/CMI to this day  retain their connections with the PCA. The Bankruptcy Court Documents (BCD) cited in this article can be read and downloaded from the bmcgroup.com website by searching  case number 08-20355. [1] The author recommends that BCD 437 [2] and BCD 530 [3] be examined before continuing to read this article.

On December 24, 2008, the United States Trustee for the CMI bankruptcy appointed an examiner. This should have happened in July 2008, when requested by the bankruptcy trustee, but the debtor (CMI, Ottinger) as well as the Creditors Committee opposed the appointment of an examiner. Had an examiner been appointed in July 2008, there might have been more evidence of corruption found in the investigation. The examiner, Pat Huddleston, was given until March 15, 2009 to complete the examination and report his findings to the bankruptcy court. The report is contained in BCD 530. [4]

The author first scanned BCD 530 on March 18, 2009. BCD 530 details the double-dealing, self-dealing, and fraud of John Ottinger and John Wehmiller. The following day the author and his wife carefully studied BCD 530 in order that the complexity and the deviousness of what had happened at CMI could be better understood. Later that morning, the author telephoned Mr. Jamie Sickert, CMI Vice-President and Director, and asked if he had read BCD 530.  The author remembers clearly Mr. Sickert’s answer; “I read it, turned off my computer, sat down and cried.” The author asked Mr. Sickert if he or the rest of the board knew about the corrupt goings on at CMI, and Mr. Sickert replied with an emphatic “NO!”. Mr. Sickert and the board of directors were negligent in their duties which included fiscal and spending matters.

The eHow.com website “Money” section describes the role of a corporate board of directors:

A for-profit corporate board of directors must be cognizant of certain issues. Initially, the for-profit board has to keep a watchful eye on the chief executive officer (“CEO”) of the corporation. The board must assist the CEO and offer assistance to the CEO whenever necessary to achieve the board’s goals. Also, the board must determine whether to relieve the CEO from his or her duties or whether to continue with the CEO when his or her term expires. Furthermore, for publicly-held corporations, the for-profit board must have responsibility for fiscal matters and all spending issues. [5]

On June 23, 2009 on the Internet and June 24, 2009 in the paper edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, there was an article titled, “Cornerstone Ministries Betrayed Them by Straying from Mission, Investors Say.” [6] The following day, June 25, 2009, PCA TE the Rev. Cecil Brooks died.

Prior to Mr. Brook’s death, the author was preparing a complaint to file with the PCA’s Metro Atlanta Presbytery (MAP), asking for discipline of the Rev. Cecil Brooks and the Rev. John Ottinger. The complaint was then changed to reflect only Mr. Ottinger. Seven CMI creditors including the author filed the complaint with MAP in July 2009 citing  Scripture, applicable sections of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXX, Section III, questions and answers from the Westminster Larger Catechism, and applicable sections from the PCA Book of Church Order.  As evidence, the author cited various sections of BCD 530.

MAP met October 9, 2009, and appointed a commission to investigate the complaint. The author received at least one email from the commission chair wanting to know if the author had more information over and above what had previously been sent.  The author suggested that the commission contact the individuals listed on BCD 530-1, which was a list of all the principals, directors, and others that had been associated with CMI.  The author additionally made himself available to meet with the commission.  On May 8, 2010, the author received a letter from the MAP Stated Clerk saying; “this commission finds insufficient grounds for Metro Atlanta Presbytery to discipline TE Ottinger for the sins of which he is accused by the complainants.”

On May 21, 2010, the author sent a letter to the MAP Stated Clerk asking for a full report of the commission.  Sometime after June 10, 2010, the author received a letter from the MAP moderator stating that MAP had received my request for a written copy of the commission report, and writing:

“For context, our presbytery received the commission’s report on May 4; it was delivered orally, and was done so in executive session.  As such, we did not distribute written copies to any of the attending elders. It is also our practice to keep confidential the details of matters we discuss in executive session. We must therefore decline your request.”

The author additionally filed a complaint against John Wehmiller with his church, First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Georgia, which was never answered.

John Ottinger was allowed to remain in charge of CMI until Sept. 25, 2009.  Beginning with that date, Glass Ratner Advisory & Capital Group LLC (GRACG) took over management of CMI. One of GRACG’s first appointments was Jason Collins of Reid Davis TSAI LLP, for the purpose of litigating and settling the claims against CMI.  Mr. Collins’ biography was on the Internet and included the following entry on the list of cases he is handling:

Recently hired as special counsel to the Plan Administrator of Cornerstone Ministries Investment Inc, to pursue claims arising out of a $140 million Ponzi scheme. [emphasis added]

The words ‘Ponzi scheme’ were later changed to ‘financial fraud’. [7]

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission defines a Ponzi Scheme as “…an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors. Ponzi scheme organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk. In many Ponzi schemes, the fraudsters focus on attracting new money to make promised payments to earlier-stage investors and to use for personal expenses, instead of engaging in any legitimate investment activity.” [8]

On July 31, 2009, Mr. and Mrs. John Ottinger bought a house at 500 Fawn Hill Place, Sanford, Florida for $937,500.00 cash. The 2011 taxes on the Florida house are $9,469.00. [9] Prior to buying the Florida property, on May 12, 2008, three months following the CMI bankruptcy, John T. Ottinger transferred ownership via a revocable trust to Julie J. Ottinger of their residence at 6020 Providence Lane, Cumming, Georgia. [10] The 2011 taxes paid on the Ottinger’s Georgia residence were $7,219.46, for a total of $16,868.46 in property taxes paid by the Ottingers in 2011. Many of the 3500 CMI creditors that lost the majority of their CMI investments in the February 2008 bankruptcy experience continual financial difficulties due to their CMI investment losses and live on far less income than what the Ottinger’s paid in property taxes in 2011.

In a previous article, the author said that more information was forthcoming on a man named John Lowery.  The author telephoned Jayme Sickert at home one night in the mid-2000’s, and during the course of our conversation Sickert said that he needed to go to bed because of an early flight the following morning. Sickert said that he was going to Dallas, Texas, for the CMI annual meeting, and that CMI had plans to make a large investment with a developer and a doctor who owned a fitness center in Dallas. The developer was John Lowery and the corporation was named Wellstone. Wellstone from 2006 to 2008 was a major sponsor of what in 2006 and 2007 was called the Wellstone Dallas White Rock Marathon. [11] [12] [13]

On 1 December 2008, Wellstone’s Craig Ranch development, an undeveloped tract of forty-two acres in the middle of a 2200 acre development in McKinney, Texas, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to force fellow bankruptee CMI to release its mortgage on the Wellstone property to which CMI had loaned $3 million. Wellstone had the Craig Ranch property under contract for sale to a rehabilitation hospital, but CMI’s refusal to release its mortgage on the property prevented its sale. The primary lender to Wellstone thus was attempting to foreclose on the property to satisfy its $5.2 million loan to Wellstone. [14]

The writer has been investigating the CMI debacle since early 2009 and believes this scandal isn’t much different than the Roman Catholic priest pedophile scandal. The reader may wonder at this point: “What is the difference between abuse of young boys by priests and the abuse of elderly senior citizens by PCA ministers?” Some might say the difference is that the pedophile scandals involved physical harm being done to the victims. Included among the 3500 defrauded CMI investors was a gentleman named Don Lebate. Don, as co-chair of the Creditors Committee, overextended himself investigating the bankruptcy, then in April 2009 suffered a massive heart attack and died. Another lawyer who had been investigating CMI told of one man that told him that he was contemplating suicide because of his losses. The author suggests that the reader examine letters that were sent to the bankruptcy judge that are filed on the BMC group web site detailing their losses and plight to get an understanding of the widespread despair and hardship suffered by so many as a result of the CMI Ponzi scheme. Two prime examples are BCD 590 [15] and BCD 667. [16]

The author additionally has contacted several of the fathers of the PCA denomination to garner support into investigating the CMI scandal.  One of the gate keepers said that the doctor would not become involved at that point in time. Another correspondent who was sent extensive documentation of the CMI scandal did not bother to respond at all. It seems that no one cares about this massive stain upon the church of Jesus Christ except the author’s pastor, a TE in another denomination, and the Christian Observer; said publication began reporting on serious financial and fiduciary irregularities with CMI’s predecessor organizations seventeen years ago in 1994.

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) was a Church of England pastor and hymn writer. Seven of Doddridge’s hymns are in the Trinity Hymnal. Doddridge’s biography contains the biblical solution for church members who seek bankruptcy:

April 2nd, 1741

After this follows a number of cases presented to the Church for suitable admonition and discipline. One entry we will quote, as deserving the attention of the Churches of Christ at the present day:—

It is the unanimous judgment of this Church, that the frequent acts of bankruptcy which have happened in Dissenting congregations, as well as elsewhere, have brought so great a dishonour on religion, and occasioned so much mischief and reproach, that we think ourselves obliged in duty to enter our public protest and caution on this head; and we do hereby declare, that if any persons in stated communion with us shall become a bankrupt, or, as it is commonly expressed, fail in the world, he must expect to be cut off from our body, unless he do within two months give to the Church, by the elders, either in word or writing, such an account of his affairs as shall convince us that his fall was owing not to his own sin and folly, but to the afflicting hand of God upon him; in which case, far from adding affliction to the afflicted, we hope that as God shall enable us we shall be ready to vindicate, comfort, and assist him, as his friends and brethren in Christ.

Signed, in the name and presence of the Church, this 1st day of May, 1741, by the pastor and deacons. [17]

Brothers and fathers of the Presbyterian Church in America, you have a responsibility to clean up the sin that remains from the 1994 General Assembly. There are 3500-plus CMI investors whose lives have been seriously altered by the corruption of PCA Teaching Elders. The Legal Audit will remain an albatross around your necks until it is uncovered, exposed, and repentance be made by those responsible for twenty-plus years of corruption and coverup, both active and passive.

The question in the title of this series of articles appears to have been clearly answered.  The Stated Clerk and Administrative Committee for 1993-1994 may very well be responsible for the existence and bankruptcy of PIF/CMI.  If so, those men may also need to be held responsible for their actions and placed under appropriate discipline.

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There is still unfinished business in the Presbyterian Church in America.

 


[4] Ibid.

[6] Atlanta Journal Constitution article:

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Our Guest Editor Bob Wildrick is one of 3500 CMI investors still waiting to receive settlement proceeds from the February 200Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Cornerstone Ministries Investments, Inc., a.k.a. the “$140 million Ponzi scheme.”

 

Series Navigation<p></br /></p><< Should Cornerstone Ministries Investments Have Existed? – Part TwoUnfinished Business for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) >>


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