The SEC has accused a father and son of bilking LDS church members out of $220 million. The money that was supposed to be used to buy apartment buildings and renovate them was used to fund the lifestyles and businesses of the perpetrators.
Churches are easy prey for Ponzi schemes. The bad guys sell the scam to church elders then they make sure the elders have a very positive experience or the elders are lead to believe they are having a very positive experience.
Elders may be inclined to share their good fortune with other church members. Or, the scam operators convince the elders to act as references for their scam. Either way, church members tend to trust other church members. They do not question the validity of the experiences of other church members, in particular church leaders.
One trust is established, they let their guards down and they are easy prey for the criminals who operate scams.
Investors should not trust the comments of references when they invest their assets. No advisor will provide a bad reference. Most references are selected because they are willing to make positive comments. Most references are coached to make particular statements. And, you do not know the nature of the relationship that exists between the reference and the person selling the investment.
Be very cautious, even when the reference is a member of your church.