Former church pastor gets 5-year prison term for scams

John North # State

An East Tennessee man who cheated investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, including Pigeon Forge church members, will spend more than five years in a federal prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Pamela Reeves imposed sentence Thursday on Roger Dale Williams, 52, in Knoxville.

In addition to his prison term, Williams must pay victims $1,373,361 in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Knoxville.

Authorities say Williams lured potential victims, often the elderly, with promises of returns from an "investment club." More recently, he scammed members of the King Branch Road Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, which he led for several years as an "evangelist", records show.

He started scamming people as early as 2001, authorities allege.

Williams sent out material touting ways he could help potential investors make money, records state. He sent false federal tax forms to his victims with bogus amounts of money they supposedly had made. He sometimes submitted documents that referenced earnings coming from an entity called "Dash Holdings Inc."

He even sent false documents to the IRS, according to court records, after the agency inquired about a client's tax filings.

Williams actually spent clients' money on his own needs, according to authorities.

Williams, who pastored the King Branch Road church for several years in the early 2010s, now lives with his family in Kentucky, according to a sentencing memo.

While with the church, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office,

Williams "diverted the funds raised for the fake church bonds to his own personal use and benefit, as well as used the funds to make payments to investment club members to make it appear that their “investments” were generating income,"
records state.

"He solicited funds for the purchase of purported church bonds and claimed the funds would be used for the benefit of the church, particularly to pay off the church’s debt,"
according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In truth, Williams took the money from what he said would be bond investments and spent it on himself.

Williams pleaded guilty in May in U.S. District Court in Knoxville to mail fraud and tax charges.

Efforts to reach church members were unsuccessful.

"For the past several years, Mr. Williams has been working as an accountant for companies with offices near his home in the area of Louisville, Kentucky,"
the memo states.
"Currently, seven of his children live at the family home. His mother, who is elderly, is also currently residing at the family home."