The headline in The Dallas Morning News looks like it was ripped from a page of Mad Libs: “Con Men Scam $1 Million From Isolated Mennonite Craftsman By Claiming To Be Illuminati.” But the story is real; one prosecutor said it was the most lavish fraud he’d ever seen. And it took place in Kaufman County, east of Dallas.
Kevin Krause is a federal courts reporter for the Morning News. He says the victim of the scam was a Mennonite cabinetmaker who doesn’t participate in most aspects of modern life – a tenet of the Mennonite way of life and religious faith.
The two con artists, Johnny Clifton and Joshua Pugh, used the man’s lack of familiarity with current events and popular culture to convince him to invest in their organization, which they said had access to world leaders and elite families. The scammers said they were members of the illuminati, a fictional group of elites that is said to run the world.
“When he realized that it was a scam, they put intense pressure on him not to report it to the authorities, and even threatened him with violence,” Krause says.
The scam was elaborate.
“They hired off-duty police officers for security,” Krause says. “They were driving a Bentley and [using] a helicopter. They did their research.”
Clifton was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Pugh is currently awaiting sentencing.
Though the criminals were caught, Krause says the victim will not receive restitution, since all of his stolen money is gone.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.