Just before Christmas 1997, 23-year-old a con man, after being introduced to the pastor by a longtime and faithful church-member was invited to address the congregation, stepped into the “discipleship pulpit” of Christ Christian Home Missionary Baptist Church in Compton. He introduced himself as the adopted son of a recently deceased food tycoon who had left an estate valued at $411 million. The con man announced that his father, a devout Christian, had instructed his estate to sell 16 cars valued at $1,000 to $1,100--the price of taxes and licensing—to his fellow believers.
However, they could not actually be delivered until his father’s estate cleared probate.
Later that day, church-members rushed forward with checkbooks in hand. One of them called the cars “Miracle Cars,” since the deceased tycoon (by the way, who never existed) had intended them to be miracles for people who had led dreary lives.
The name stuck. Almost overnight word spread and $30,000 worth of cars were sold to relatives and friends of fellow church members. The good news traveled like wild fire. Before long, the proceeds reached $1 million. In a short while, the two men were so overwhelmed with customers that they sought other people to help them collect money from the many desperate people seeking a “miracle car.” The probate time was continuously being extended to another date, and the amount of cars available (which never existed) continued to increase.
Later in 1998, the cons received a call from a female opportunist in Memphis, Tennessee. She’d heard about the Miracle Cars through her nondenominational charismatic church in Memphis—and wanted to sell them for a commission. She flew to Los Angeles to meet the alleged heir who immediately hired her as a “National Finder”—a professional sales manager who could also set up a central office for operations. She opened an office in Memphis. She worked primarily through pastors of other churches in the Southeast who told their flocks about the cars. By early 2000, two other “National Finders” had joined up—also an ordained minister in Missouri and a pastor in Philadelphia. When the “Affinity Fraud” was discovered there were arrests and convictions of the two primary operators and a few others; although charges were dropped on some innocent but naive and/or greedy pastors and other participants.
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