COLUMBIA --- Three South Carolina men accused of bilking investors out of millions made anyone with ties to law enforcement or attorneys leave their seminars and threatened investors with $1 million in fines if they told anyone about the massive returns they were making, a former bookkeeper testified Tuesday.
"If you are affiliated with any legal entities ... would you please leave?" Somera Samuels said one of her bosses, Timothy McQueen, said at their seminars.
The trio called themselves the "3 Hebrew Boys" after the biblical tale of brothers who survived an inferno because of their faith. They are on trial in federal court on nearly 60 charges, including mail fraud and money laundering, and face decades in prison and millions in fines if convicted.
Prosecutors say Mr. McQueen, Joseph Brunson and Tony Pough preyed on debt-plagued investors, luring church members and even soldiers serving overseas to invest more than $80 million with their group. They promised daily returns up to 500 percent.
"These men have no financial training or background, but they claim to have figured out how to make all this money," Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday said in opening statements in Columbia. "The problem is, none of it turned out to be true."
The men promised to help clients get out of debt, telling clients their money would be invested in foreign currency markets.
Ms. Samuels -- the trio's only employee -- said she never spoke with a foreign currency trader.
Prosecutors say the men kept millions, spending it on a Gulfstream jet, vacation home, limousines, and luxury boxes at professional sports arenas.
Defense attorneys argued that their clients didn't defraud anyone, saying they used the money to buy investment properties and pay out more than $30 million to their investors.