Preaching a lie: Churchgoers scammed out of tens of millions of dollars

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Churchgoers Scammed Out Of Tens Of Millions Of Dollars

MILWAUKEE -- Four people are behind bars -- convicted of preaching a lie. The group took tens of millions of dollars from churchgoers who never saw it coming.

"He would use the word of God to influence. He was greeting people and meeting people at church functions," said David Oakley, U.S. postal inspector.

"He" is Thomas Kimmel, and he would hold seminars on personal finances at various churches.

"Most people were parishioners of the church and it was a get out of debt seminar," said Oakley.

By the end of the meeting, Kimmel was soliciting investors for his "Sure Line Acceptance Corporation." With a guaranteed 12% return on investments, most investors felt they had nothing to lose.

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"That should be a red flag for anybody who is a potential investor with a company or a business that is being solicited when they guarantee a rate of return," said Oakley.

Instead, he detailed how their principal was protected by collateral such as cars and car loans.

More than 100 victims lost $20 million.

"Some people will have to go back to work to try to get more money so they can retire," said Oakley.

Thomas Kimmel, the mastermind behind the scam, had three co-conspirators who testified against him in court. Kimmel received more than 20 years in prison and has been ordered to pay more than $16 million in restitution.

Also see which states have the highest church attendance:

51 PHOTOS
States by Church Attendance
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Preaching a lie: Churchgoers scammed out of tens of millions of dollars

51. Vermont

Attend Weekly: 17%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 11%
Attend Seldom to Never: 71%

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

50. New Hampshire

Attend Weekly: 20%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 16%
Attend Seldom to Never: 63%

(AP Photo/David Crary)

49. Maine

Attend Weekly: 20%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 14%
Attend Seldom to Never: 65%

(Photo by John Patriquin/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

48. Massachusetts

Attend Weekly: 22%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 17%
Attend Seldom to Never: 59%

(Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

47. Washington, D.C. 

Attend Weekly: 23%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 28%
Attend Seldom to Never: 47%

(Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

46. Washington

Attend Weekly: 24%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 17%
Attend Seldom to Never: 58%

(Photo by View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images)

45. Oregon

Attend Weekly: 24%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 15%
Attend Seldom to Never: 59%

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

44. Hawaii

Attend Weekly: 25%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 18%
Attend Seldom to Never: 56%

(Photo by: JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images)

43. Colorado

Attend Weekly: 25%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 19%
Attend Seldom to Never: 55%

(Caleb Harper via Getty Images)

42. Connecticut

Attend Weekly: 25%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 19%
Attend Seldom to Never: 54%

(Robert Ford via Getty Images)

41. Alaska

Attend Weekly: 26%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 14%
Attend Seldom to Never: 57%

(Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily News/MCT via Getty Images)

40. Montana

Attend Weekly: 27%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 17%
Attend Seldom to Never: 55%

(Joanna McCarthy via Getty Images)

39. Nevada

Attend Weekly: 27%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 18%
Attend Seldom to Never: 53%

(Photo via Getty Images)

38. New York

Attend Weekly: 27%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 20%
Attend Seldom to Never: 51%

(AP Photo Stephen Chernin)

37. California

Attend Weekly: 28%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 19%
Attend Seldom to Never: 51%

(Doug Steakley via Getty Images)

36. Wyoming

Attend Weekly: 28%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 18%
Attend Seldom to Never: 52%

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

35. Rhode Island

Attend Weekly: 28%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 17%
Attend Seldom to Never: 53%

 (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

34. Wisconsin

Attend Weekly: 29%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 24%
Attend Seldom to Never: 45%

(Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

33. New Jersey

Attend Weekly: 30%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 22%
Attend Seldom to Never: 46%

(Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

32. Minnesota

Attend Weekly: 31%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 23%
Attend Seldom to Never: 45%

(Photo via Getty Images)

31. South Dakota

Attend Weekly: 31%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 25%
Attend Seldom to Never: 43%

(Photo by Jean-Marc Giboux/Liaison)

30. Maryland

Attend Weekly: 31%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 21%
Attend Seldom to Never: 45%

(William Sherman via Getty Images)

29. Florida

Attend Weekly: 32%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 21%
Attend Seldom to Never: 45%

(Tammy Lee Bradley via Getty Images)

28. Iowa

Attend Weekly: 32%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 23%
Attend Seldom to Never: 44%

(Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

27. Pennsylvania

Attend Weekly: 32%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 20%
Attend Seldom to Never: 47%

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

26. North Dakota

Attend Weekly: 32%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 29%
Attend Seldom to Never: 37%

(Tyler Olson via Getty Images)

25. Illinois

Attend Weekly: 32%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 21%
Attend Seldom to Never: 45%

(Henryk Sadura via Getty Images)

24. Ohio

Attend Weekly: 32%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 20%
Attend Seldom to Never: 47%

(Steven Miric via Getty Images)

23. Michigan

Attend Weekly: 32%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 19%
Attend Seldom to Never: 47%

(Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

22. Kansas

Attend Weekly: 33%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 21%
Attend Seldom to Never: 46%

(Photo via Getty Images)

21. Arizona

Attend Weekly: 33%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 18%
Attend Seldom to Never: 48%

(Natalia Bratslavsky via Getty Images)

20. West Virginia

Attend Weekly: 34%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 18%
Attend Seldom to Never: 47%

(AP Photo)

19. Idaho

Attend Weekly: 34%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 16%
Attend Seldom to Never: 49%

(Caleb Harper via Getty Images)

18. Missouri

Attend Weekly: 35%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 22%
Attend Seldom to Never: 42%

(Photo via Getty Images)

17. Delaware

Attend Weekly: 35%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 18%
Attend Seldom to Never: 46%

(Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

16. Virginia

Attend Weekly: 35%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 22%
Attend Seldom to Never: 41%

(Brianna May via Getty Images)

15. Indiana

Attend Weekly: 35%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 21%
Attend Seldom to Never: 42%

(Photo via Getty Images)

14. Nebraska

Attend Weekly: 35%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 24%
Attend Seldom to Never: 40%

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

13. New Mexico

Attend Weekly: 36%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 17%
Attend Seldom to Never: 45%

(Carl Weaver via Getty Images)

12. Oklahoma

Attend Weekly: 39%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 20%
Attend Seldom to Never: 40%

(Anne Rippy via Getty Images)

11. Texas

Attend Weekly: 39%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 23%
Attend Seldom to Never: 36%

(Photo via Getty Images)

10. Georgia

Attend Weekly: 39%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 25%
Attend Seldom to Never: 34%

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

9. North Carolina

Attend Weekly: 40%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 24%
Attend Seldom to Never: 34%

(Mark Treese via Getty Images)

8. Kentucky

Attend Weekly: 41%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 20%
Attend Seldom to Never: 38%

(Charles Bertram/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT via Getty Images)

7. Tennessee

Attend Weekly: 42%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 22%
Attend Seldom to Never: 34%

(John Elk via Getty Images)

6. South Carolina

Attend Weekly: 42%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 25%
Attend Seldom to Never: 30%

(Photo via Getty Images)

5. Arkansas

Attend Weekly: 45%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 21%
Attend Seldom to Never: 32%

(Rex Lisman via Getty Images)

4. Louisiana

Attend Weekly: 46%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 22%
Attend Seldom to Never: 30%

(Photo via Getty Images)

3. Alabama

Attend Weekly: 46%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 23%
Attend Seldom to Never: 29%

(Photo via Getty Images)

2. Mississippi

Attend Weekly: 47%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 26%
Attend Seldom to Never: 25%

(Photo via Getty Images)

1. Utah

Attend Weekly: 51%
Attend Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 13%
Attend Seldom to Never: 35%

As Gallup noted in its assessment of the numbers "Utah's No. 1 position on the list is a direct result of that state's 59% Mormon population, as Mormons have the highest religious service attendance of any major religious group in the U.S."

(Photo via Getty Images)

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