updated 10/22/2004 4:28:00 PM ET 2004-10-22T20:28:00

Two women were convicted of running a religion-laced scam that duped more than 1,000 investors out of nearly $2 million by promising a cut of the late Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos’ fortune.

A jury found Roberta Dupre and Beverly Stambaugh guilty of wire fraud, rejecting Dupre’s claim that the Lord had encouraged her to lure the investors with pledges that $1,000 could become $1 million if a secret bank account were unlocked.

The pair claimed to need the investments to cover document fees, travel expenses and bribes to Filipino officials, prosecutors said.

The women quoted from Scripture and urged investors by e-mail to pray for the release of the funds. Dubious investors were directed to Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

Meanwhile, Dupre had been living in a $5,000-a-month room at a posh Manhattan hotel since 1999, using the investors “like a personal ATM machine,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Bret Williams told jurors.

She and Stambaugh, of Montrose, Colo., could each face up to 20 years in prison at sentencing Jan. 21. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote revoked their bail.

The God-made-me-do-it defense, while occasionally used in state trials involving violent crimes, is rarely found in federal white-collar cases.

The case also was unusual because many victims still believe Dupre’s claims and fear prosecutors are spoiling their chance at riches, said Dupre’s lawyer, Robert Baum. He said two investors called him after Wednesday’s verdict.

“They were shocked at the conviction,” he said. “They wanted to know if they could do anything to help Ms. Dupre.”

The judge has forbidden contact between investors and the defendants.

Prosecutors said the secret Marcos account did not exist. But the claim did not seem so farfetched, in part because Marcos and his wife were once federally indicted in New York for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars to buy property. Marcos died before the trial; Imelda Marcos was acquitted in 1990.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments