Leader of prayer group sentenced for defrauding members

March 5, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A 66-year-old Rio Rancho man has been placed on probation for three years and ordered to pay $76,000 of restitution for defrauding members of an Albuquerque-area prayer group that he led.

Felix Fernando was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court after previously pleading guilty to wire fraud.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Mexico says Fernando acknowledged telling prayer group members that “their money was evil” and that “miracles would happen” if they gave money to him so it could be used to help people in need.

The office says Fernando kept all of the money for himself.

Assistant Public Defender Mallory Gagan said in a presentencing report on Fernando’s behalf that he had spiraling credit card debt and took the money from prayer group members because he was desperate.