On February 26th, 1991, Payne and his third wife, Betty, whom he married the year before, and James Maher of Tampa, formed I John 4:4, Greater Inc., a “financial adviser and planning” business, Florida state incorporation records show.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. – John 4:4
Maher had just cleared probation, having been sentenced to five years in 1985. Maher pled no contest and was found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme in that case.
Ten years later, Maher was forced to refund $1.2 million paid by 40 Floridians to an “investment club” that he ran.
I John 4:4, Greater Inc. offered a gold coin investment program, called the ABC Gold Plan. The ABC Gold Plan could, it claimed, return $1,600 on a $60 investment in 12 to 18 months.
On March 18th, 1993, Payne incorporated “Greater Ministries International” with the Florida Secretary of State’s office.
At first, outwardly, money didn’t seem to be the focus of the new ministry. Greater Ministries rented some buildings in a run-down section of Tampa, and used them as substance abuse rehabilitation facilities. Payne said that Greater Ministries volunteers cooked meals for the poor, and counseled alcoholics.
But it didn’t seem that Greater Ministries’ heart was in serving the downtrodden, as soon Greater Ministries was getting complaints about its operations.
On November 27th, 1993, the Tampa Tribune ran an article in which neighbors of one of the rehab facilities complained about the noise and dilapidation of the facility.
“It’s no church!” fumed one about the Greater Ministries rehab facility. “They’re coming and going at all hours, slamming doors.”