On Nov 17, a North Carolina court found Pastor Michael Baldwin guilty of running a fraudulent investment scam.
What is the story here?
Let’s find out.
What exactly was he up to?
He had established an “Investment Opportunity” called Miracle Mansion that started as long ago as 2009.
The concept was this – it was supposedly going to be a Christian theme park (see concept pictures here). The pitch pushes lots of hot warm fuzzy buttons … “Family” “Community” “Opportunity” “Excellence” “Hope”.
It is specifically designed to suck in the religious demographic.
Something akin to this, if he pulled it off and actually delivered, would have been popular; a little slice of heaven on earth.
He packaged it up and cleverly sold his investment opportunity …
as “a one-of-a-kind entertainment complex that [would] reshape the face of family entertainment in the Washington Metropolitan region,” with a mission “to provide a high-quality performing arts experience that promotes family-focused inspiration, entertainment and enrichment anchored by a Biblical worldview.”
Baldwin also held in-person and virtual meetings with potential investors, during which he … claimed the investors’ money would be used to develop Miracle Mansion, including to purchase the land on which Miracle Mansion would be located. ….
…Baldwin also … represented to potential investors that The Kennedy Center and high-level executives at Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A had endorsed and supported Miracle Mansion. …. Baldwin described to investors several investment opportunities, including “GroundSwell 73,” which was described as “73 acres = 7,300 people, investing $73 per month, for 73 months.”
$73 per month would have been affordable for many.
One ever so tiny little flaw – it was all a lie, nothing he claimed was true.
Not only was there no endorsement by The Kennedy Center or high-level executives at Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A, but he did not even begin to actually develop or construct Miracle Mansion.
So where did the money go?
The trial revealed evidence that he kept it all, spent it on himself, then started using money from later investors to pay dividends to early investors to keep them feeling warm and fuzzy.
It other words this was quite literally a Ponzi Scheme.
Ponzi Schemes are not sustainable
You can ride the Ponzi Scheme train only for so long. Eventually people wise up because it is just not sustainable and will unravel. He managed to successfully run the con from 2009 up until his inditement in 2021.
What Happens Now?
The DoJ statement dated Nov 17, lays it out …
The federal jury convicted Baldwin of wire fraud, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine, and securities fraud, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $5 million fine. Baldwin is currently released on bond. A sentencing date has not been set.
A Few Further Thoughts
He was a rogue who knew how to manipulate people so that he could scam them. Because he was a pastor he would naturally be trusted, and so he leveraged that position of trust to swindle people.
As for his future, well I guess he will have his food and lodging paid for because he will now be a non-voluntary guest of the state for many years to come. He worked hard to earn that distinct “privilege” and so he can sit back now and “enjoy” that well-earned “reward” in a very special place dedicated to people just like him.
One Last Quote
“Baldwin’s Miracle Mansion was a house of lies. Using Biblical themes and empty promises to cover up the fraud, Baldwin engaged in an extensive scheme that caused significant monetary losses to his victims. My office is committed to uncovering investment fraud and ensuring that perpetrators like Baldwin face the criminal justice system.”– Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina
- Inditement document from 2021– it lays out a lot of details and is, for a legal document, not too lengthy and very readable.
- DoJ statement dated Nov 17, 2022 announcing the guilty verdict after the 9 day trial.
- Pastor Michael Baldwin Facebook page – Last posting is dated Oct 2021. If you check it out you will be able to see how this rogue blended right in. It contains lots of quotes from well-known Christian authors, and is all served up with praise for him from many.
- Meanwhile the Miracle Mansion Facebook page is still up and rolling with posts going all the way back to 2009.
To understand how slick his pitch was, here is a 2011 promotional Clip (11 mins) designed to suck in gullible victims