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5 at Uniondale firm indicted in alleged church scam

Five members of a Uniondale investment firm were indicted Tuesday for scamming members of their Forest Hills church and others out of more than $9 million in a scheme that allegedly kicked off with a prayer but ended up paying for expensive cars, jewelry, travel and outings in the Hamptons. The indictment named Isaac Ovid of Trinidad, 28, an ordained minister at the Local Christian Assembly, the church whose members were allegedly defrauded, and Joseph Coleman, 40, of Westbury, the son of the senior pastor, as key figures in the scheme. The church has branches on 70th Avenue in Queens and in Reading, Pa. Also charged were three other church leaders and principals in Jadis Management, the Uniondale firm - Timothy Smith, 35, Aaron Riddle, 34, and Robert Riddle, 59, all from Pennsylvania. A companion civil complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission identified two other Long Island men, Stephen Cina, 32, and Cory Martin, 31, both of Westbury, as participants, but they were not charged criminally. After Ovid had some success investing money for family and friends and the group decided to start a business, the SEC charged, Coleman's father, church pastor Joseph Coleman, "held a public prayer for the success of the new business venture and excitement . . . started to build within the church." From that start the criminal defendants allegedly used their church ties, false representations and guarantees of returns as high as 75 percent to get elderly church members to invest $9.3 million into their Logos Fund in 2004 and 2005, convincing some parishioners to use retirement money or borrow as much as $500,000 against their houses. The SEC said there were 80 investors. They allegedly lost millions on ill-advised trades, and used investor money to underwrite business expenses including a $2-million 10-year lease and $600,000 in renovations at "extravagant" offices in Uniondale. They took six-figure salaries, hired friends and relatives, and spent hundreds of thousands on expensive perks - a $200,000 Bentley, a Lexus, a $4,275 watch, tabs for $5,515 at a Hamptons gift shop and $2,408 at a restaurant, the government said. Robert Riddle allegedly invested some money in a kitchen design business, Ovid covered trading losses for private clients, and Cina and Martin traveled with their wives to Paris and Geneva on the investor funds. Later, they allegedly used false representations to get a Panamanian firm to invest $3 million in a new fund to bail out Logos, and lost $500,000 of that money, too. The five criminal defendants are each charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud. Coleman, Smith, and Aaron and Robert Riddle surrendered and pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday, and were all released on a $200,000 bond. At the arraignment, prosecutors asked for a special order prohibiting any "preaching from the pulpit" at the Christian Assembly churches designed to persuade victims to drop their complaints. "You should not be talking with the members of your congregation about the charges," U.S. Magistrate Roanne Mann told the defendants. Ovid was arrested in Florida last month and is in custody. Cina and Martin couldn't be reached Tuesday.

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