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In 2008, John Harrell was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay $40.6 million in restitution to his victims. Harrell had been a leader of a group that used religious pitches to separate suckers from their money.

Among many things, Harrell claimed he controlled a $1.6 trillion trust that had been given to him by a direct descendant of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church. In a massive affinity-group scam, Harrell was the leader of a group that bilked investors of $50 million. Many of the others went to the slammer, too.

Yesterday (Nov. 18) the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied a bid by Harrell to vacate his guilty pleas to fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering. Among other things, Harrell claimed his lawyer duped him into confessing. The appellate court thumbed him down on every claim.

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