Federal Indictment in Real Estate Investment Scam

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HOUSTON (AP) A 52-year-old Houston man who portrayed himself as a pastor running a religious-themed investment program is charged with 24 counts of fraud for what federal prosecutors say was a real estate scheme that cost a Mississippi woman $650,000.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson says Samuel Ray Palasota has surrendered to authorities and was to appear before a federal magistrate in Houston.

An indictment unsealed Thursday describes Palasota as manager of a firm called "The Maker's Resources" where in 2009 he made false promises and representations about reselling foreclosed homes around Houston. Prosecutors say he duped the unidentified Mississippi woman to invest with him proceeds from a $1 million divorce settlement but spent the money on himself.

If convicted, he could get up to 20 years in prison on each count.