MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- When it comes to your money, unfortunately you cannot trust anyone but yourself. It is important to research your investments and those you allow to oversee your finances. Some thought church would be a good place to find a good financial advisor. Instead, they fell victim to a scam.
"When you can`t be protected by your own church, when people are coming in there and preying on you, where else do you turn?" a fraud victim said.
He lost $60,000 in a scam run by a man he met at church.
"I`ve lost my trust in human beings. I cannot trust anybody," the man said.
Terence Mayfield was invited to speak at the church as a guest speaker. Posing as a certified financial planner, Mayfield claimed he could help the congregation make money for themselves and the church.
"He told them by participating he would be able to consolidate their debt and also get them involved in an income-generating real estate investment program," U.S. Postal Inspector Daniel Forrester said.
Mayfield would show potential investors pictures of properties that were supposedly in foreclosure.
"He would say 'this would be the house you`re going to invest in.' He may not have had any intention or connection with the house, so the people felt these would be houses that would generate rental income," Forrester said.
In reality, it was all a scam -- and just one more layer to an elaborate Ponzi scheme Mayfield had been running for years.
"In actuality, he never purchased any of these properties. He told the people to send the investment funds directly to him, those investments wound up in his bank account," Forrester said.
More than a dozen victims lost around $1.2 million.
"When they did not have money to invest in one of his schemes, he often convinced them to re-finance their homes. In many cases people refinanced their homes just to get the money and to this day they remain homeless," Forrester said.
The financial and emotional toll has been devastating.
"The things I want to provide for my children, I couldn`t provide for them any longer. School, ballgames -- things that would create memories for us for the rest of our lives I`ve had to cut short because I have to have enough money to make ends meet," the victim said.
Mayfield was arrested, convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison, followed by three years of probation -- and ordered to pay restitution.
The victim in this case, who doesn't expect to see a cent, said he believes Mayfield will do something like this again because he's been in trouble with the law before.