I need a blog like I need a hole in the head.
But it’s clear that these days, it’s an increasingly important way of getting one’s views and convictions into the broader public discussion and debate. And before it is too late, there are some things I’d like to get into circulation. My overriding concern now is the mad course down which my country’s rulers are headed, and what faith groups can do about it. My perspective is “sectarian,” rooted in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers.) As the saying goes, I’m proud to be a humble Quaker. But my sense is that people from other faith groups, or none, can learn things from our experience and discussions — and we can learn from others. So let’s do it.
In the Productions Plus/Priscilla Deters case, the cast of characters covers a range that would strain a novelist’s imagination. Consider these few:
The President’s Chaplain. If anyone deserves the melancholy credit for turning Priscilla Deters loose on Friends, it is unmistakably T. Eugene Coffin. Coffin was once pastor of the East Whittier Friends Church where Richard Nixon was a member. He preached several times at Nixon’s White House worship services. When East Whittier received minutes from more than 200 Friends meetings asking for Nixon’s disownment over Vietnam and Watergate, it was Coffin who explained that they were not going to do any such thing. (Coffin is now suffering from Alzheimers, and unable to respond to interview requests.)
Continue reading Stranger than Fiction: The Cast of Productions Plus
Welcome to the online edition of A Friendly Letter. In addition to back issues, there are some new reports as well. The major new report is about two multi-million dollar financial frauds, perpetrated on Quakers and other churches. Another new addition is a personal tribute to Bill Kriedler, a very fineQuaker minister who died in June, 2000.
Continue reading A Friendly Letter
by Chuck Fager
Wichita, Kansas — Priscilla Deters, 63, of Walnut, California went on trial here Tuesday on 13 counts of wire and mail fraud, in connections with investment programs run by her company, Productions Plus.
Continue reading February 24, 1998: Deters Trial Opens in Wichita
Update by Chuck Fager
Wichita, Kansas — Part of the more than $400,000 collected by the Cherokee Friends Church, intended for investment in a profitable business, was instead used to pay back a Quaker College in Kansas as part of a “Ponzi” fraud scheme, a Kansas jury was told today.
Continue reading February 25, 1998: Cherokee Quaker Church Money Used for “Ponzi” Fraud Scheme–Kansas Investigator
“Quakers make good victims,” says Steve Schroeder.He should know; as a federal prosecutor since 1974, he’s seen enough of them. Fraud victims, that is; Quakers were a relatively new experience. In particular, the ones who quoted the Gospel to him about staying out of court.
Continue reading “Quakers Make Good Victims”
In the early 1950s, Billy Britt attended Peoples Bible College in High Point, North Carolina. In 1993, Peoples had become John Wesley College, and Britt’s wife Viola was a member of its board.Frank Scurry, the NCYM pastor who also headed the Houston extension program there, told John Wesley’s President, Brian Donley, about Deters and Productions Plus. Donley was interested. His school was in tenuous financial condition: in debt, unaccredited, and paying very low salaries to its faculty. Donley and his board could think of many uses for matching grants: retiring the debt, some new building, scholarships.
Continue reading John Wesley’s Folly
A plethora of lawsuits are likely to spring from Operation Islandscam, the feds’ code name for the Phil Harmon scandal. But that’s not all it is likely to produce.Last Halloween, when Phil Harmon formally entered his guilty plea, Steve Schroeder told reporters he expected there would be up to a half dozen more criminal indictments in the case. When I asked him if this was just grandstanding, he said flatly, “I don’t bluff.”He doesn’t hurry, either. Schroeder said in January of this year that the new round of indictments probably won’t be anounced until spring, maybe late spring. For that matter, Phil Harmon is not to be formally sentenced until May 4, six months after his plea. In the meantime, he remains somewhat at liberty, though subject to numerous restrictions.
Continue reading Quaker $$$ Scandal Update: Will An Ex-Superintendent be Indicted?
Courtroom theatrics is not what the Harmon case is about. Its “bottom line” is the theft from 230 people, mostly elderly, of their life savings, and of health coverage from several hundred more. That’s what it’s all about.Nevertheless, when Harmon comes back to court on May 4 of this year, there ought to be some drama in the courtroom.
Continue reading Phil Harmon’s Victims Speak
There were a lot of nights like this by 1996.It’s Friday in Lincoln, Nebraska. June 26. There’s been an evening service at the First Church of the Nazarene, which is over now. A dozen people have remained behind, at first clustered in the sanctuary, then moving to a classroom. There they settle into chairs around a well-dressed middle aged woman, who talks to them earnestly for two hours.
Continue reading A Real-Life Nightmare, and a Possible Vision