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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Faith Predators: Looting the American Dream


By Sikivu Hutchinson

Excerpted From Free Inquiry Magazine, February 2011

The con man claimed to be a devout man of God: the title “visionary” figured prominently on his business card. Going door-to-door with promises of easy mortgage-refinancing deals and claiming to have a direct line to the Lord, Timothy Barnett wheedled his way into the houses of elderly homeowners in South Los Angeles. Scared, vulnerable, and without a safety net, his victims lapped up his God-schlock like mother's milk. Isolated in modest homes they'd owned for decades, they welcomed his call to prayer. Like a nattily dressed inner-city Elmer Gantry, Barnett's hook was pitch-perfect: “Our Christian beliefs unite us in a common value system based on ethics and integrity. The nonbelief of non-Christians consigns them to immorality, making them more prone to duplicitous behavior and less worthy of your trust than I.” Kneeling in humble service to God and claiming the status of copilot, he stole the titles to five of his elderly victim's homes-and their “stake” in the American dream.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Barnett, a repeat felon subject to California's three strikes law, could be the first person in California sentenced to life in prison for a white-collar crime. MORE @FREE INQUIRY