Jurors convict Bay Area man who defrauded donor, church in $7.5M scheme

A Cupertino man who soaked his church and a wealthy donor for $7.5 million over more than a decade then used the money to buy luxury cars, gobble up Bay Area real estate and pay his athletic club dues was convicted of fraud and money laundering charges Tuesday in a San Jose federal courtroom.

Jonathan Chang, 65, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for each of four wire fraud counts and three counts of money laundering, federal prosecutors said in a statement announcing the Tuesday verdict.

Chang next appears Sept. 17 in U.S. District Court in San Jose with his wife, Grace Chang. A federal grand jury indicted the couple in the scheme in 2006 but could not reach a verdict on the charges against Grace Chang.

Chang’s scheme targeted the donor for the millions of dollars meant to support the Home of Christ 4 Christian Church in Saratoga on promises that the money was to pay for a new church building and missionary work, U.S. Attorney’s officials said.

The guilty verdicts were handed down Tuesday at the end of a four-week trial in San Jose federal court before U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Davila.

Chang, 65, was a church elder who managed the Home of Christ’s finances, federal prosecutors said.

Chang used the job as cover for his scheme, establishing dummy charities with names similar to Home of Christ to funnel more than $6 million of the donor’s money into the fake organizations. Federal prosecutors say the Cupertino man also skimmed some $900,000 from church-related bank accounts.

But the donor was Chang’s main target, U.S. Attorney’s officials said. The donor paid $2.25 million in donations, loaned another $3 million for the purchase of the church building and gave away another $1.5 million in monthly donations.

Chang went on a shopping spree with the donor’s cash, federal prosecutors said, buying a number of Bay Area homes and luxury cars, picking up 15 timeshare properties and plunging cash into commercial real estate. Other cash went to health insurance and club dues.

More money the donor intended for the church went to buy a home in Fremont. Chang leased that house to one of the donor’s companies and collected rent. He bought a second home with the donor funds that he rented to one of his children, U.S. Attorney’s officials said.

The fraud stretched for nearly 12 years from 2004 to January 2016 before a federal grand jury in February 2016 indicted Chang and wife Grace Chang of single counts of conspiracy to commit wire or mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud and three more of money laundering.

Jonathan Chang was found guilty of the wire fraud and money laundering counts but jurors could not reach verdicts on the conspiracy allegations, U.S. Attorney’s officials said. Jurors deadlocked on the counts charged to Grace Chang.