A former Tennessee lawmaker has been sentenced in Memphis to 21 years in prison for running a multimillion-dollar Ponzi coin scheme related to end-of-the-world predictions.
Bates encouraged listeners on his Christian broadcast programs to buy gold and silver coins, which supposedly would give them financial protection against a religious and economic collapse termed “Mystery Babylon,” The Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors said that Bates, a Democrat who served in the Tennessee House from 1971 to 1976, defrauded more than 400 people from 2002 through 2013.
U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman has ordered the 73-year-old ex-lawmaker to repay more than $21 million to victims.
Bates’ two sons and daughter-in-law were also convicted back in May at Memphis federal court of wire and mail fraud, and they currently await sentencing.
As The Christian Post reported back in 2015, the FBI and the DOJ accused Bates and his sons of using their broadcast company, Information Radio Network, “as a means of advertising, promoting, and soliciting the sale or purchase of gold and silver to and from individuals nationwide.”
Bates would tell listeners about an upcoming biblical “mystery Babylon” period that would bring economic, political and religious upheaval, convincing them to buy the coins.
The “mystery Babylon” phrase is found in Revelation 17:5, which reads: “And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.'”
“While there are numerous theories as to the identity of mystery Babylon — whether the Bible text is describing a person, place or system, for example — Larry Bates taught his viewers, listeners and readers that it was a ‘demonic blend of the world system of economics, politics and religion,'” CP noted at the time.
Bates apparently convinced victims that gold and silver can offer protection from volatile money markets, because they always will be exchangeable, even in “end times,” he said.
AP reported that a number of the victims were elderly Americans who lost their life savings and the ability to pay for health care.
One of the victims, Judith Ponder, from Kerrville, Texas, said at the trial that she and her mother gave Bates more than $1.8 million dollars.
Christian pastor Charles Grimsley from Mesa, Colorado, said that he and his wife sent Bates more than $200,000 of their retirement money, but got little in return.
Lipman explained that there were customers who received the coins for which they paid for, but positioned that “that is how Ponzi schemes work.”
Bates said in his defense that business competitors and private and government lawyers had conspired against him, claiming that he is “very sad for these clients of ours.”
“God is my defender,” he insisted. “He knows the truth. He will expose the lies.”
Lipman slammed Bates for the way he used his views, stating: “Your use of religion to gain trust is appalling.”