Local pastor, wife accused of defrauding investors, swindling at least 1,000 people out of $500K

HOUSTON – A Houston couple faces federal, local fraud and theft charges after investigators say they defrauded hundreds of thousands of dollars out of investors and used the money on personal expenses.

On July 22, A Harris County grand jury indicted former pastor Larry Donnell Leonard II and his wife Shuwana on felony charges of securities fraud and aggregate theft.

In April, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged the couple with violating the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act.

The Leonards own and operate Teshuater, an alkaline bottled water company and Teshua Business Group.

The SEC’s complaint alleges the couple targeted investors in the African-American community with three separate fraudulent offerings.

“... the Leonards first sold bogus stock certificates in Teshuater, a company that bottled and sold alkaline water. Larry Leonard then allegedly tried to raise $20 million by selling a valueless cryptocurrency called TeshuaCoin, which he falsely claimed was backed by Teshuater’s water products. Finally, the complaint alleges that Larry Leonard raised funds for a non-existent bitcoin mining investment, promising exorbitant returns, and then used the funds to make speculative options trades,” The SEC said in a statement.

Investigators said the couple recruited investors through a series of live videos on Facebook.

“Your 4,000 shares that you purchased today are worth $1,240,” Larry Leonard says on a video recorded in 2017 as his wife sits by his side calculating the math.

But prosecutors say the stock shares were worthless.

“If you invested in the company with a share you were given a piece of paper that said you were a shareholder, unfortunately, that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. They promised people would be millionaires. These defendants never delivered and the investors never got a return,” said Valerie Turner, chief prosecutor in the consumer fraud division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

When reached by phone, Larry Leonard told KPRC 2 on the advice of his attorney, he could not comment on the charges.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office says they are waiting for the couple to turn themselves in.

If convicted, possible punishment ranges from probation up to 99 years in prison.

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Emmy-winning journalist, native Houstonian, reader, dancer, yogi.