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Lay Minister Accused Of Bilking Other Ministers

January 26, 1988

MIAMI (AP) _ A self-proclaimed minister who allegedly bilked 140 people, most of them ministers, out of $359,000 was arrested Monday in an investigation code-named ″Operation Black Sabbath,″ state officials said.

Dennis A. Oliver, 41, who also used the name Dennis Olivares, was charged with grand theft and organized fraud and accused of swindlig investors while giving them investment advice, said Barry Gladden, chief investigator for the Controller’s Office.

″The great majority were ministers; they included all denominations but were principally Methodists,″ Gladden said of the victims. He said Oliver presented himself as a minister and preached, but was not ordained.

Oliver was invited to speak at many churches and he used the opportunities to chat with ordained ministers about investments, officials said.

Word spread among ministers, allowing Oliver to accumulate $1.4 million over eight years. He used the money to buy three rental apartmMnj complexes in Biscayne Park, Gladden said.

Oliver allegedly told investors they would recover much of their initial investment, some of which were pensions, when he refinanced the properties. He also promised continued profits from higher rents, authorities said.

The alleged crime came in July 1985 when Oliver refinanced one of the complexes and n%st the $359,000 savings, Gladden said.

″As long as five months later he was sending out news letters saying the refinancing had not been done,″ Gladden said.

Gladden said the investigation was made particularly difficult because Oliver scattered the money in 67 accounts at 11 banks.

Operation Black Sabbath was announced at a news conference that also detailed five arrests in two other investment operations.

In one case, four people were arrested in connection with the Wellington Precious Metals company, which was closed by the Comptroller’s Office in November 1985.

Dean K. Lucas, 26, and Martin Geller, 50, were former salesmen for Wellington, which allegedly sold investors worthless precious metals contracts. They were accused Monday of posing as agents appointed by the state Attorney General to help investors recover money lost to Wellington, said Comptroller Gerald Lewis.

Lucas and Geller allegedly persuaded Wellington victims to send them more money to help recover their lost investments, Lewis said.

Lucas and Geller were allegedly assisted by Geller’s wife, Leslie Schwinger Geller, 42, and Daniel Patrick Lynch, 28.

The four are charged with racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, organized fraud, two counts of first-degree grand theft, 17 counts of second-degree grand theft, 30 counts of fraudulent securities or investment sales, and one count of unlawful boiler room operation, Lewis said.

In the other case, Freddie N. Wexler, 42, was accused of defrauding customers of $80,000 in a rare coin scam.

Lewis said Wexler operated a company called Jefferson Mint Inc., from November 1984 to January 1986 and sold ″rare coins″ that customers never received.

He was charged with 54 counts of second-degree grand theft, 53 counts of fraudulent securities or investment sales and one count of unlawful boiler- room operation.

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