TV minister pleads guilty to jewelry scam

Times Herald-Record, New York/June 16, 2010

White Plains - A television pastor from Hamptonburgh pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to scamming investors out of approximately $3 million for a phony jewelry business.

Samuel Solanky, 63, who ran Vandana, a Christian cable television show geared toward the South Asian community and broadcast in both the U.S. and Asia, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. Prosecutors alleged that between 2005 and 2009, Solanky offered several individuals, including people he had met at religious events, the opportunity to invest in a gemstone business he was starting. He promised a 100 percent return on their investment within months.

The investors wired money to several bank accounts in Solanky's name. In return, Solanky mailed them investment agreements acknowledging he received the money. But Solanky admitted there was no gemstone business. Instead, the money he received was wired abroad from the accounts and withdrawn in cash.

In the original criminal complaint, when Solanky was arrested last July, he claimed he was contacted several years ago by e-mail from individuals in Nigeria who wanted to donate money to his ministry, but who needed him to send them money in order to obtain the proper paperwork to make donations.

Solanky faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Robinson on Sept. 29. His prior criminal record will likely be taken into account — in 2002, Solanky pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion and was sentenced to five months in a halfway house, according to court records.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.