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Man Claiming to Be Cleric Held as Fraud

August 29, 1986|From Times Wire Services

MIAMI — James G. Bryan, a fugitive who claims to be an archbishop of the Congregational Church of Human Morality, was arrested Thursday on charges of operating a $40-million tax fraud scheme through a network of phony churches.

Bryan, 54, also known as Archbishop James Gerald, was arrested at Miami's International Airport, Deputy U.S. Marshal Lee Van Pelt said.

Sought as a major fugitive by the Internal Revenue Service, Bryan was tracked down in Belize through an "investigatory effort" by the U.S. Marshals Service, said marshals' service spokesman William Dempsey.

Non-Existent Parishes

Bryan is accused of setting up phony churches and selling documents that established his clients as ministers or members of non-existent parishes.

"He induced people such as doctors and dentists to join the parishes. He would have them donate money, then they could claim the deduction on their tax returns. They were promised that 95% of the money they donated would be given back to them," Van Pelt said. "He set up a whole network like that. Hundreds of people went in on it."

Donations ranged from $3,000 to $25,000, she said.

Bryan was charged in a 51-count indictment in Portland, Ore., in 1985 with conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, aiding and abetting the filing of false income tax returns and failure to file tax returns. The charges cover roughly a 10-year period, beginning about 1974.

Denied Entry by Belize

He also is accused of selling papers documenting non-existent losses in the commodities market. Clients declared the losses on their income tax returns, and used the phony documents to back up the claims, Van Pelt said.

Bryan had been living on Grand Cayman Island since 1980. Immigration authorities stopped him as he attempted to enter Belize.

"Belize authorities denied him entry. They found out he was wanted and put him on a plane for Miami," Van Pelt said.

Belize police escorted Bryan on the flight to Miami, where he was turned over to U.S. marshals. He is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate today in Miami.

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