Nov 10, 2021 - News

Christian radio host sentenced to prison for Ponzi scheme

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

William “Doc” Gallagher, the Christian radio host who called himself the “Money Doctor,” has been sentenced to three life sentences plus 30 years by a Tarrant County judge after pleading guilty to operating a Ponzi scheme that prosecutors allege stole $32 million from elderly listeners.

  • Gallagher Financial Group, based in Hurst, ran ads on Christian radio with the tagline “See you in church on Sunday” and Gallagher authored a book called “Jesus Christ, Money Master.”

Why it matters: Many of the scheme's nearly 200 victims are middle-class retirees who lost tens of thousands of dollars in Gallagher’s scheme.

Context: Gallagher, 80, had already been sentenced to 25 years in Dallas County. He will likely die in prison.

Details: Gallagher promised clients a 5-8% percent return on their investment but instead deposited the money into a single account that he controlled. For 10 years, he created fake account statements that showed made-up balances.

What they’re saying: “He ruthlessly stole from his clients who trusted him for almost a decade,” Lori Varnell, chief of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Elder Financial Fraud team, said in a statement when Gallagher was sentenced. “He worked his way around churches preying on people who believed he was a Christian.”

  • Ed Gordon, chief investigator for the Erath County district attorney’s office, lost $175,000. “He knew what my occupation was, and he had the gall to think he could do this with that kind of impunity — and was able to get away with it,” Gordon testified.
  • Retired Watauga police officer Steven Hickman testified that he lost $245,000. “We erroneously thought the radio stations vetted these individuals,” he told the court.
  • "I don’t trust anybody anymore, except for God and my family," Susan Pippi, another victim, told the court.

What we’re watching: Prosecutors allege that Debra Mae Carter, a woman described in court as Gallagher’s romantic partner, received $1.6 million from Gallagher and used the money to invest in real estate.

  • “Miss Carter was not involved in any Ponzi scheme that Doc Gallagher was involved in,” her attorney told the Dallas Morning News.

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