June 22, 2024

Colorado pastor accused of pocketing $1.3M in crypto scheme says ‘Lord told us to’

A Colorado-based pastor for an online church who allegedly pocketed $1.3 million through a cryptocurrency fraud scheme told followers in a video statement that the Lord told him to do so.

Eli Regalado and his wife marketed their cryptocurrency, INDXcoin, to Christian communities in Denver, saying that God told him people would become wealthy if they invested, the Colorado Division of Securities said in a statement Thursday.

INDXcoin raised nearly $3.2 million, the securities division said. At least $1.3 million of that went directly to the Regalados or was “used for their own personal benefit,” a complaint filed Tuesday in Denver County District Court said.

Eli and Kaitlyn Regalado could not be reached for comment, but in a video statement to his followers last week, Eli Regalado said the charges that they pocketed $1.3 million “are true.”

“Out of the $1.3 [million], half a million dollars went to the IRS and a few hundred thousand dollars went to a home remodel the Lord told us to do,” he said in the video.

The couple also allegedly spent their investors’ funds on a Range Rover, luxury handbags, jewelry, an au pair, boat rentals and snowmobile adventures, according to the complaint.

The couple were charged with violating anti-fraud provisions under the Colorado Securities Act.

Colorado Securities Commissioner Tung Chan told NBC News that she filed the civil fraud charges after she was approached by people who invested and lost money through INDXcoin.

“We allege that Mr. Regalado took advantage of the trust and faith of his own Christian community and that he peddled outlandish promises of wealth to them when he sold them essentially worthless cryptocurrencies,” Chan said in a statement.

‘Illiquid and practically worthless’

Regalado claimed that God told him investors would become wealthy if they put money into INDXcoin, promoting it as a low-risk, high-profit investment pegged to the average value of the top 100 cryptocurrencies, the securities division said.

In reality, INDXcoin was “illiquid and practically worthless,” the securities division said in its release. The cryptocurrency was only available in Kingdom Wealth Exchange, which the Regalados shut down. It can no longer be sold anywhere.

“We took God at his word and sold a cryptocurrency with no clear exit,” Regalado in his video address Friday. “What we’re believing for still is that God is going to do a miracle. God is going to work a miracle in the financial sector.”

In the comments of Regalado’s video, dozens of people continue to assure him that God will “turn the situation around.”

Faith-based marketing

Regalado was 22 and serving a prison sentence for “boosting cars” when his faith called him to become a pastor 20 years ago, he said in a YouTube live podcast. He began preaching for the online-only Victorious Grace Church, where he and his wife are listed as the only two employees.

Despite having no cryptocurrency or exchange background, Regalado said divine inspiration called on him to launch INDXcoin and Kingdom Wealth Exchange.

“It was last October [20]21, that the Lord brought this cryptocurrency to me. He said, ‘Take this to my people for a wealth transfer,’” Regalado said in a video update to INDXcoin followers in August 2022.

Regalado advertised INDXcoin through presentations at his church and others he found through other pastors, according to the legal complaint. From June 2022 to April 2023, the cryptocurrency raised nearly $3.2 million by selling unregistered securities, it said.

In videos on INDXcoin’s YouTube channel, Regalado quotes Bible verses, telling investors to expect a “miracle” as they waited for “God’s plan” to unfold.

Regalado also told investors they would “tithe” and “sow” in causes helping widows and orphans, but the funds primarily went into their own pockets, according to the complaint. 

“They specifically went out to the Christian community and there’s a lot of references to scripture and faith. He cloaks himself in that to get people to give their money to him,” said Chan, the Colorado securities commissioner. “That’s really heartbreaking for the people who trusted him.”

Eli Regalado, his wife and his three companies are charged with securities fraud, unlicensed broker-dealer activity, selling unregistered securities and imposition of constructive trust.

They are scheduled to appear at the Denver District Court next week, according to the court docket.

Chan is urging others who have invested in INDXCoin to contact the Colorado Division of Securities.

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