St. Louis, Missouri – On Wednesday, a pastor of a north St. Louis church who was recently the subject of an alert from the Better Business Bureau plead guilty to filing a false tax return and mail fraud in federal court — as part of a criminal probe into a scheme that took more than $1 million from 31 victims.

The  pastor who promoted himself as a successful investment adviser would often invite his potential victims out to buffets for free food in order to lure them by talking to them about investing with him.

The pastor ran a company called Stafford Financial. The victims want their money back. But in some cases, investors lost their life savings.

Mark Q. Stafford, 52, admitted he took their money and in some cases kept it for himself. Stafford is scheduled to be sentenced June 13th.

Stafford, of O’Fallon, Missouri, was a pastor at New Birth Powerplex Ministries. He made the guilty plea as part of a deal with federal prosecutors, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The Better Business Bureau recently issued a warning after Stafford`s clients contacted them.

The BBB  said that Stafford used his role with the church to find clients. And those clients say he then disappeared with their life savings. One family tells KMOV they invested nearly $100,000 before he stopped returning calls or emails and failed to surface at his home or church.

They tried to get their money back, but couldn’t and now some fear they will never see a dime, even though the guilty plea will order Stafford to pay restitution.

One retired worker lost his life savings.

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