Already denied once this week, Ponzi scheme preacher makes another unsuccessful attempt to delay sentencing

dwren@thesunnews.comJuly 2, 2014 

Aynor resident Archie Evans, a Baptist preacher who has admitted running a Ponzi scheme that stole $2.5 million from his parishioners and others, has once again been denied an attempt to delay his sentencing in federal court.

Evans on Tuesday wrote a letter to Judge Bryan Harwell asking for a delay until at least Aug. 7, according to documents filed in federal court in Florence. The letter was sent a day after Harwell expressed frustration with the ongoing delays and said Evans’ sentencing “will not be delayed any further.”

Harwell on Wednesday denied Evans’ latest request, and the preacher remains scheduled to be sentenced on July 9 for two felony charges that carry a maximum of 25 years in prison.

Evans’ last-ditch attempt to avoid sentencing came in a two-page, handwritten letter in which he claimed “critical developments will occur in the next four weeks” in his case. Evans did not specify what those developments will be.

“There is zero chance of my defense being 50 percent ready in a paltry seven days,” Evans told Harwell, adding that he would not be able to work on his defense this weekend because he plans to spend the Independence Day holiday with his family.

Evans, who has fired two lawyers in the two years that his case has been pending, is representing himself.

In addition to the upcoming “critical developments,” Evans in his letter repeated complaints about a pre-sentence report he claims is “error-riddled” and said an ongoing, unspecified illness is preventing him from preparing for any court hearings.

“I have been sick since February and continue to be very subpar,” Evans said in the letter. “I am unable to work days and nights, nor can I work seven days a week.”

Harwell said in court documents Wednesday that he is denying Evans’ latest request for the same reasons outlined in his court order earlier this week.

“The court has been patient and considerate of any alleged health problems,” Harwell said in that order, adding that Evans “has not provided sufficient proof — medical or otherwise — that he is physically unable to proceed with a sentencing hearing.”

Evans’ case is the oldest on the docket in the Florence office.

Evans was indicted two years ago and pleaded guilty in January 2013 to two felony charges related to the Ponzi scheme, in which Conway-based Tilly Swamp Baptist Church parishioners and others lost $2.5 million they invested with Evans’ Gold & Silver LLC.

A month after pleading guilty, Evans tried to rescind his plea by claiming he was pressured to make a deal with prosecutors that he didn’t fully understand. That set in motion months of delays in which Evans fired his lawyer and then fired the public defender that was appointed for him. Ultimately, Evans said he wanted to go ahead with the guilty plea while representing himself.

Then, in March, Evans said in court documents that he “has been mentally incapacitated the last six weeks due to an illness and he needs more time to prepare for a sentencing hearing.”

On June 24, Evans filed another request to delay his sentencing hearing due to unspecified medical problems and an upcoming doctor’s appointment. That was followed by this week’s letter.

Evans will be sentenced on one charge of mail fraud and one charge of structuring financial transactions to evade the reporting requirements banks must follow for deposits exceeding $10,000.

Evans has been free on a $25,000 unsecured bond since his arraignment in August 2012.

An indictment in the case states that Evans convinced church members to invest in Gold & Silver LLC, with the promise that investors would receive quarterly interest payments of between 10 percent and 12 percent. Evans either spent the money or lost it on bad investments, but prepared false investment statements to make it appear as if church members were earning a high rate of interest on their money.

The scheme started in 2004, according to the indictment, and Evans had spent all of the money invested with him by October 2011. At the time of his indictment, court records show, federal agents seized the $1,919.86 that was left in Evans’ bank accounts.

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281 or via twitter at @David_Wren_

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