Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Lonny Remmers Begins Serving One Year Prison Sentence for Fraud
Lonny Remmers, pastor of Heart of Worship Community Church in Corona, California, reported to prison today to begin serving a year-and-a-day sentence for defrauding an Ohio developer.
Brian Rokos, a reporter for The Press Enterprise, reports:
His last-minute bid to remain free for a few more weeks denied, Corona pastor Lonny Remmers on Tuesday, Aug. 22, reported to prison in Lompoc to begin serving his year-and-a-day sentence for his role in swindling $2 million from an Ohio developer.
Remmers in August 2016 pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was ordered to pay $95,000 restitution. Two others made pleas as well.
The day before he was due to turn himself in to the federal prison, Remmers, 59, filed a motion to delay that, writing that he had to care for his wife, Lisa, who Remmers said was bedridden with shingles, severe bronchitis and vertigo.
“It would be a great help to his wife, and would put defendant Remmers at ease if he could stay at home and take care of her for the next two to three weeks before he has to report to Lompoc,” Remmers wrote in the federal filing.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick denied the request without comment.
Remmers, Robert Milam and Mark O. Wittenmyer solicited $2 million from an Ohio developer as seed money for an investment fund but instead used the money for their own purposes. They had promised Larry Dillin a substantial return on his investment and said the plan was backed by assets in a different, multi-million fund that actually had no assets.
Remmers is head of the Heart of Worship Community Church, which has about two dozen members, many of them recovering drug addicts or others who sought refuge with Remmers from their troubled lives.
Readers may remember Remmers from a 2012 story detailing his use of pliers to pinch the nipple of a teenage boy as punishment for sexually assaulting his sister. Rokos reported:
In his latest case, Remmers, pastor of a Corona church with 15-20 members, is accused of assaulting a 13-year-old boy whose mother brought him to Remmers to be straightened out.
Remmers was charged in April with assault with a deadly weapon and inflicting corporal injury on a child.
Authorities say that as head of the Heart of Worship Community Church, he directed two men living at one of the church’s group homes — Darryll D. Jeter Jr. and Nicholas J. Craig — to scare the boy.
Jeter, 28, and Craig, 22, both are charged with assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, making criminal threats, inflicting corporal injury on a child and assault. Authorities say that on March 18, the two men took the boy to Barstow, forced him to dig a grave, hit him with a shovel and threw dirt on him. Jeter and Craig returned the boy to Remmers, who then assaulted the boy’s nipples with pliers, authorities say.
Remmers was sentenced to two-years in prison for his crime. And, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, numerous Christians thought Remmers should have received a pat on the back, not prison, for “helping” the boy:
For one, people who had avoided speaking out during the case that began in March 2012 decided to speak publicly Friday, and they didn’t leave anything out as they tried to persuade Fields to give Remmers probation instead of prison.
The victim in the case and his mother – she moved in with Remmers after his arrest on charges that originally included kidnapping – spoke on the pastor’s behalf Friday.
The boy, now 16, said Remmers “is the best father I have ever known. He means the world to me. He doesn’t deserve any of this. He’s done more to help me in my life than anyone else I’ve ever known. I love this man.”
The boy’s mother, who is not being identified because it could identify the boy, spoke next. She said Remmers pleaded guilty so the boy wouldn’t have to testify about molesting his younger sister. But then she told the court what her son did to her daughter.
She said the incident should have been taken care of in “the family” and not involved police. Remmers taught her son that when it comes to rape, “No means no.”
She claimed that the plea deal was made because of a lack of evidence. Fields interrupted her, reminding her that Remmers voluntarily pleaded guilty.
“Respectfully, you seem to be ignoring that,” Fields said.
Remmers said he pleaded guilty to inflicting corporal injury on a child and assault with a deadly non-firearm weapon so the boy would not have to testify. But Remmers then made public for the first time a contention that the boy had been molested as a 3-year-old, being “passed around like a party favor.”
Remmers said the boy does not fear him.
“The day that this supposed incident went down, the young man came up to me and said ‘Grandpa, thank you for saving my life.’ Not ‘Why did you do this to me?’”
Several church members told Fields that Remmers’ counsel kept their marriages intact. Others said Remmers saved their lives, giving them hope and a place to live and be loved after they had been molested by various relatives or acquaintances. Others said that Remmers, who was ordained in the late 1990s – after serving a contempt of court sentence – is an outstanding pastor.
“I have never been closer to Jesus than I am now because of Pastor Lonny,” said Robert Guzeman, who said he has known Remmers 30 years. “I love you, Pastor.”
Church member Ryan Parks said he was a partier and drinker until he met Remmers, and that the pastor helped him with his marriage. “When I was introduced to the Lord by this man, everything changed for me.”
But two parents of church members said Remmers broke families apart and forbade parents from contacting their loved ones. Jim Forbes said he hadn’t seen his grandchildren for years until he walked past them in the court room.