Vow of Poverty

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Reverend Father Brian Andrew Bushell said he took a vow of poverty, “joined a monastery on Athose, and learned how to separate sea salt from seawater.”  He apparently also took a vow of fraud.

According to the U.S. authorities, allegedly while under the guise of a monk, Bushell started several organizations in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with purported Orthodox connections. Such as his home, which he claimed to be a residence for clergy, a “monastic brewery” called Marblehead Brewing Co. and a craft saltern called Marblehead Salt Co. However, according to the Orthodox Church in America, neither Bushell nor any of the claimed “Orthodox” organizations he established had any affiliation with the church.

Bushell also allegedly established the Shrine of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Patron of Sailors, Brewers & Repentant Thieves, which is what Bushell may be. On October 13, 2022, Bushell, and his live in attorney Tracey Stockton, were arrested at their home, called The Annunciation House, on charges of fraudulently applying for and receiving nearly $3.6 million in COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds. And using them for personal gain.

Bushell allegedly spent over $1 million on renovations at two properties in Marblehead, which they planned to develop into a monastic complex featuring a chapel, brewery, beer garden, and $90,000 in audio video system equipment (no vow of silence at this monastery!) Bushell also purchased over $40,000 in antique furniture for this property.  Bushell also used the money to buy Swiss watches, designer handbags, luxury items from Hermes and another residential property.

Great job by the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force in targeting this case.

Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on an article “Marblehead Orthodox ‘monk’ accused of scamming about $3.6 million from pandemic relief programs” published by The Boston Herald on October 13, 2022

A man presenting himself as an Orthodox monk — and who had taken a “vow of poverty” — is accused of manipulating the COVID relief grant system to make off with nearly $3.6 million, which the feds say he spent on luxe items like $40,000 in Swiss watches.

“Today, we arrested a purported Orthodox Christian monk and his attorney for misdirecting millions of dollars in federal emergency assistance from businesses struggling to survive, to line their own pockets for their own personal enrichment,” said Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office. “We believe they clearly knew that what they were doing was wrong, but they did it anyway.”

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.