Living Word megachurch sues to keep Ponzi schemer's donations


Gerard Cellette may be a convicted Ponzi schemer who rooked investors out of $53 million, but Living Word Christian Center megachurch says the $2.2 million in donations it received from the crook shouldn't be used to pay back the victims of his crime.

Cellette's a guy with such an impending sense of doom that, once he figured he'd been smoked out last year, he more or less demanded to put behind bars without so much as entering a plea. That came later, in March this year.

Living Word is the home of Pastor Mac Hammond. And it's where Rep. Michele Bachmann famously declared in 2006 she was a "fool for Christ." (Video after the jump.)

The court-appointed receiver for Cellette's victims has filed a lawsuit against the Brooklyn Park church, part of a clawback to make the victims whole.

Not our problem, the church says.

"This lawsuit, on behalf of Mr. Cellette's investors, to take back the funds from LWCC and repay the investors is unfair," it said in a statement to the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal. "Our church is essentially being asked to be the guarantor to principally out-of-state, sophisticated investors that made bad investments with Mr. Cellette."

That's a different tack than the clawback process moving along in the wake of Ponzi schemer Tom Petters $3.5 billion scam. He lavished some of his ill-gotten gains on Cathedral High School, St. John's Abbey and the College of St. Benedict.

In December, the monks of St. John's voted to return a $2 million gift from the Thomas J. Petters Family Foundation for the construction of its Petters Pavilion, and to remove the Petters name from the building.

The College of St. Benedict renamed its Petters Auditorium to Escher Auditorium in December, to distance itself from Peters.

Cathedral has been asked to return a $250,000 donation from the disgraced businessman.

Here are Bachmann and Hammond demolishing the separation of church and state at Living Word: