A Houston man who portrayed himself as a pastor is accused of running a religious-themed real estate scam, taking one woman for more than $500,000.
According to federal prosecutors, a Mississippi woman turned to a Houston pastor for spiritual guidance and emotional support after her divorce. She claimed Samuel Palasot defrauded her out the lions share of her divorce settlement, which was more than half a million dollars.
Palasota was arrested Thursday morning.
In federal court, he pleaded not guilty to 24 counts of mail and wire fraud.
His wife and mother were there to hear it.
His mother insists the charges are false.
"He's a son that all the other mothers could dream of," said Margaret Palasota.
Palasta is a courier by profession, but federal investigators said he held himself out as a minister to counsel a Starkville, Mississippi woman after her marriage broke up in 2007.
She received a settlement of $1 million.
The indictment alleges Palasota convinced her to invest $650,000 of it with him.
He allegedly told her he was using the money to buy distressed houses and resell them for a hefty profit. but investigators contend Palasota simply pocketed the money.
"I don't have one doubt in my mind or in my heart that God will see him through this and that he will be freed of all these charges because in my heart, God knows he's telling the truth and that he's innocent," said Margaret Palasota
Palasota was released after posting a $75,000 unsecured bond.
His attorney, Wilvin J. Carter, said he has evidence to show no crime was committed.
"We just received the indictment and Mr. Palasot, as well as his wife are going through this indictment and any other evidence that the government may have just to show that it's false and prove his innocence."
Prosecutors said their evidence are the checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars on the woman's account Palasota cashed.
If Palasot is convicted, he could face years in federal prison.
While he's awaiting trial, the judge ordered that he cannot represent himself as a minister or spiritual adviser.