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Houston Man Used Religion to Sucker Woman Into Ponzi Scheme

A Houston man was sent to federal prison recently in a devious scheme to bilk a Mississippi woman out of her divorce settlement money. Samuel Ray Palasota used the word of God to get more than a half-million dollars from the woman, making her think they were partners in a Houston real estate company.

Palasota, 53, set up a church he called The Makers Mercy Church. He ran the so-called real estate company through a branch he called The Maker's Resources, and according to online records he also operated Sammy Palasota Ministries, all had Houston mailing addresses.

Palasota connected with the woman sometime in 2008, offering her religious counseling. A year later the woman agreed to invest her money with him after receiving religious literature and a guarantee of a 40 percent return on her principal annually, according to court records.

Given Houston's real estate market four years ago, there's no wonder she bought into it. But, as court records show, Palasota didn't invest a dime of the woman's money.

Instead he spent it on himself.

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Palasota bought luxury items galore, and two cars that were ultimately forfeited by the court. In all, Palasota ran through more than $1 million dollars since he caused the woman to sell her home, in addition to the $650,000 investment she was asked for from the beginning.

And if you didn't think this Palasota scummy enough, he kept the woman believing she was making money by cutting her off pieces of her own invested money and giving it back to her. He would cut her checks, mentioned in the federal indictment, of $208.33 one or twice a month through 2009 with a big check of $10,833.31 back in September 2009. The followed that up with three payments of $14,166,64 to finish the year.

By late 2010, the court says Palasota spent everything and his own bank account was in the red. He was convicted on 21 counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud in October. He was sentenced to 71 months in prison last month.

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