Author of ‘Jesus Christ, Money Master’ charged in $19.6M Ponzi scheme, SEC says
What would Jesus say?
A self-styled “Money Doctor” who promoted his services on a Christian radio station penned a self-help guide to “share the benefits of putting Christ back in the center of our personal spending habits.” In pitches to clients, the ex-advisor allegedly promised guaranteed risk free returns of 5-8% per year.
But the SEC says the proffered investment was really a scheme to defraud elderly retirees.
The regulator charged William Neil Gallagher with operating a $19.6 million Ponzi scheme whose alleged victims included a 91-year-old client. The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office also charged Gallagher with two felonies, arresting him on March 12, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Gallagher, who is accused of operating the scheme since 2014, could not be reached for a comment.
He allegedly found clients through his media activities, promoting his financial planning savvy on three Dallas-area radio stations, including a Christian-talk station, according to authorities. Gallagher also wrote a self-help guide entitled “Jesus Christ, Money Master: Four Eternal Truths That Deliver Personal Power and Profit.”
“Jesus's Golden Rule, applied to Wall Street, would have prevented Bernie Madoff's churning of client accounts and Enron's 'cooking the books,’” Gallagher writes in the book’s introduction.
Gallagher used his radio airtime to solicit listeners to meet with him, according to the SEC’s civil charges. During meetings, he pitched prospective clients an investment product called Diversified Growth and Income Strategy Account, promising it would generate guaranteed risk free returns of 5-8% per year and “retirement outcome you’ll never outlive,” the SEC says. He also presented clients with misleading information about the investments and his credentials, the regulator says.
Gallagher allegedly invested a small portion of the funds — $75,000 — in a single annuity. The SEC claims says he used $5.8 million to make Ponzi style monthly payments to investors and $3.2 million to pay personal expenses and buy more airtime. It was not clear what the remaining money were used for, but the SEC says he spent all client funds by Jan. 31, 2019.
Gallagher was still soliciting funds from investors, hauling in $500,000 in January, according to the SEC. Approximately 60 clients gave over their money to Gallagher, the regulator says. The youngest was 62 years old.
Although he presented himself to clients as a “fully licensed” wealth manager, Gallagher has not been registered with a broker-dealer since 2001 or an RIA since 2009, according to the SEC and FINRA BrokerCheck. In 1999, the Texas State Securities Board fined Gallagher $25,000 for allegedly making two material representations to the regulator, according to a note in his BrokerCheck record.
The regulator also charged two companies he owned: Gallagher Financial Group and W. Neil Gallagher, Ph.D. Agency. Neither company is registered with the commission.
A state court has appointed a receiver to oversee Gallagher’s fund and firm. Attorney Cort Thomas, who does not represent the SEC or any other party in his role as receiver, declined to comment for this article.