In the beginning, as is common with these kinds of schemes, things seemed to be going very well for those who invested in Gerald Payne’s Greater Ministries scheme.
Early investors were receiving regular cash payouts. These payouts attracted others who put in their money, and, bam!, the money was coming into Greater Ministries by the millions of dollars. People got their interest payments – delivered through Priority Mail in cash – every thirty days. Everyone was happy.
It wasn’t too good to be true. It was real.
Nancy Ross, a retired single woman living in Florida, saw what was going on with Greater Ministries, and asked her stockbroker about the investment.
“My stockbroker said, ‘This was a safe way’ to invest,” Ross said in a television interview after Greater Ministries’ collapse.
Ross saw returns immediately, as promised.
“I went into it full bore,” she said. “And just like clockwork, every month, we’d go to this house and pick up cash, whatever we wanted. Right on time, right on schedule.”
The “we” Ross was referring to was herself and her best friend, Mary Coy. Ross had recruited Coy, also a single retired woman, into the Greater Ministries program. And for awhile, both women were pleased with their investments.
“They had scripture to back up everything,” said Coy.
“Giftors” into the Greater Ministries scheme were asked to deplete their personal finances in order to profit from the dream. So what if credit cards charged 18% interest? Greater Ministries was promising – with the word of God as bond – a 100% return in 17 months!
Bank accounts were emptied. IRA’s were cashed. Businesses were sold; College funds drained.
It was this promise of easy, God-blessed riches that brought those 700 people to that hall in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, on that November evening in 1998.
“We can double money every 10 to 16 months,” read the fact sheet held in the people’s hands as they waited for the show to begin. “People who support Greater Ministries are believers who believe that, with faith, they will receive back from God double the money that they donate to Greater Ministries.”
The Lebanon meeting took in $500,000 that night.