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The Lyin’ King: Gerald Payne and the Greater Ministries International $500 Million Fraud

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The Team:

“The important thing is never to let the mark catch you lying. That means that everything not only has to ring true, but that everything you tell him comes true. … That’s the way you build his confidence, you get him to trust you, since what you say turns out that way.”
– Anonymous con man quoted in Richard H. Blum’s,
Deceivers and Deceived.

Stealing $500 million from almost twenty thousand innocent people is not a job for just one con man.

The con man needs assistance, accomplices. He needs a systematized approach. He needs props.
It requires a team.

Gerald Payne recruited into his scheme thieves who played their roles very well. Because they did, each would be rewarded very generously, in cash. Cheating a bunch of people could make a lot of money for a few.

The unsuspecting marks do not see the sequencing, the order in which the mark is reeled in. You don’t get the money right away; you do it gradually, methodically.

The marks don’t control the line of chatter, and the shark always has the answers. They don’t see the steering of the attention, always toward the dream, not the idea.

It takes coordination and effort to keep the marks insulated from outsiders. Everyone must know their lines, their roles. The team must share the same assumptions about the marks. They know the marks don’t want to be seen as stupid or gullible. Make him feel comfortable, safe, smart, even.

And if there is a problem or complaint with a mark, a system must be in place to deal with them.

The team had to look the part, too, and as a casting director, Gerald Payne – who himself resembled a surlier version of surly football coach, Mike Ditka — had a good eye.
Betty Payne, short, plump, plain, played the role of devoted wife to her “Minister” prophet husband.

She held the office of secretary in the Greater Ministries organization, and along with Payne, was co-signatory on the organization’s central bank account in Colorado. Although they didn’t tell their investors, this is where much of the “gift” money went.

The most flamboyant member of Payne’s inner circle of Greater Ministries “Elders” was a career preacher, Haywood Eudon “Don” Hall.

With his poofed-out, silver, cotton candy hair, and a voice of honey & buttermilk, Don Hall was a show unto himself.

On the road, the wiry Hall would dart about the stage in an ill-fitting suit, holding a Bible, shouting scripture. Hall was the one who ‘knew scripture.” That was important for this scam.

Don Hall had a darker side. He was held without bond for two months in 1995 and 1996 for aggravated stalking and violating a domestic violence injunction obtained by his wife.

“Be humble,” Hall purred to his Greater Ministries audiences. “But you don’t have to be poor.”

Hall joined Greater Ministries in early 1996. He was considered a director and pastor of the church, and was also the head of its “World Missions” program.

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