Houston-Area ‘Pastor’ Charged in Real Estate Investment Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office May 23, 2013|
HOUSTON—Samuel Ray Palasota, 52, of Houston, has surrendered to federal authorities following the return of a 24-count indictment alleging he operated a fraudulent real estate investment scheme and defrauded a woman of $650,000, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
The sealed indictment, returned May 8, 2013, and unsealed today, charges Palasota with 21 counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud. Palasota is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson at 2:00 p.m. today.
According to the indictment, Palasota held himself out as a pastor and also claimed to manage a real estate investment program, doing business under the name “The Maker’s Resources.” From in or about December 2008 through approximately December 2009, Palasota knowingly devised and intended to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud by means of material false pretenses, representations, and promises, the indictment alleges. Specifically, Palasota allegedly convinced a Mississippi woman to invest her money with him in an alleged real estate investment. However, instead of investing in real estate, Palasota stole her money, according to the indictment.
The woman divorced in 2007 and looked to Palasota for spiritual guidance and emotional support, according to the indictment. During the time she was seeking guidance from him, she received approximately $1 million in her divorce settlement.
Palasota allegedly claimed to have a real estate investment program, in which he would purchase foreclosed homes in the Houston area at below-market prices and would later re-sell them for a profit. The indictment alleges Palasota told the woman he wanted investors who would partner with him to finance the purchase of the properties. As part of his scheme, Palasota claimed his real estate investment was “guaranteed” to provide a high rate of return to investors. The indictment indicates he provided the woman with an investment schedule that claimed the minimum rate of return would increase by five percent for every additional $100,000 she invested, up to a maximum of $650,000.
The woman subsequently invested the maximum $650,000 in Palasota’s scheme, according to allegations. Palasota then allegedly used those funds for his personal benefit, including paying his personal expenses and purchasing automobiles.
In furtherance of the scheme, the indictment alleges Palasota did make payments to the woman which he termed “returns on investment.” These payments, however, were not the proceeds of an investment but were simply the return of a portion of her own money, made in an effort to appear as though the so-called investment was generating income.
If convicted, Palasota faces a possible 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine for each of the 21 counts of mail fraud and the three counts of wire fraud. The indictment also includes a notice of forfeiture in the amount of $650,000.
The case in being investigated by the FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Robert S. Johnson is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.