Dennis Eugene Long, 65, admitted to defrauding the faithful in a plea deal on January 29.
The defendant pleaded guilty to five felonies, including multiple counts of grand theft and one residential burglary; plus, he admitted that the amount he stole was more than $500,000.
Prosecutor Anna Winn
The residential burglary charge applies because Long entered a person’s home to commit a felony therein, according to prosecutor Anna Winn.
In the deal, more than 60 other felony charges were dismissed.
Winn had alleged that Long took $1,228,542 from 33 victims; those were his fellow attendees at two different churches, the Nu-Way Christian Ministries in Temecula and the Daybreak Church in Carlsbad.
The scam artist attended the first church beginning in 2004, and moved on to his next batch of potential victims in 2012, according to investigators.
“Long represented himself as a very successful businessman and a devout Christian,” prosecutor Winn stated.
Long told his victims that he had a buyer willing to pay $4 million for his (fictional) pharmaceutical business that manufactured an “herbal Viagra” pill. He invited certain persons in his Friday-night Bible studies class to join as “original investors,” presented as a special opportunity because a few of the original investors had backed out of the deal.
“Defendant Long told the couples that they could not tell anyone else in the Bible study group about his offer because his company did not have enough shares to include all of the couples in the investment opportunity,” the prosecutor stated.
The scam artist told his victims that he had specially selected them because of their circumstances; one couple was adopting a baby, another couple was facing unemployment, and another couple was dealing with Parkinson’s disease.
Carlsbad police detective Patty Parra and officer Keith Happle pursued the investigation after victims contacted local police.
Bank records showed that investors’ money was spent by Long and his family on regular expenses such as groceries and car payments; plus, fees to be part of a private volleyball club and travel and credit card bills for “extensive retail shopping,” according to prosecutor Winn.
It appeared that Long’s last legitimate income was as a clerk at a Target store until he was fired from that position, according to the prosecutor, who stated that most recently Long was receiving a monthly Social Security benefits check.
Long has been held in lieu of $1 million bail since his arrest in April of 2014. He expects seven years in prison at his sentencing. “I do expect some victims to speak at the sentencing,” said prosecutor Winn.
The same judge who accepted the plea deal, Michael J. Popkins, will pronounce sentence on April 28 at 1:30 p.m. in Department 6 of San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse.