(The Center Square) – The leader of a nonprofit and faith-based medical cost-sharing organization pleaded guilty to defrauding members out of millions of dollars, according to the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
Craig Anthony Reynolds of St. Joseph waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Greg Kays. An FBI investigation led to a charge of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of making false statements on a tax return.
Reynolds, 61, incorporated and ran Medical Cost Sharing as a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the Internal Revenue Service. He served as president and chief executive officer from 2014 through December 2022.
Reynolds admitted he and a co-conspirator pocketed $5.2 million in member contributions from December 2015 through December 2022. He admitted he filed a tax return in 2019 stating he had no taxable income when he received at least $354,292 in taxable income, according to the U.S. attorney.
From 2015 through 2022, Medical Cost Sharing collected $8.1 million in member contributions and paid no more than $245,982 in claims, according to the plea agreement. The organization paid no claims from Feb. 22, 2021, through December 2022 despite collecting $1.2 million in dues in 2021 and 2022.
In his plea, Reynolds admitted he and his co-conspirators made “false and fraudulent promises to market Medical Cost Sharing as a ‘Health Care Sharing Ministry’ to defraud hundreds of ‘ministry members,’” the U.S. attorney stated. “Reynolds and his co-conspirators collected more than $8 million in ‘member contributions,’ yet paid only 3.1% in health care claims so that they could personally profit and take most of the members’ contributions for themselves.”
Medical Cost Sharing was marketed and promoted by Reynolds through radio station advertising, insurance brokers, social media and its website as “Christian Health Care Sharing Ministry.”
“… while we are not an insurance company, many think of us as a Christian Health Insurance, or Christian Medical Insurance because, like conventional insurance plans, we help you pay your healthcare costs,” the Medical Cost Share website stated, according to the investigation. “We help you protect your family. But unlike these corporate, profit-based plans, we are a healthcare sharing ministry … your healthcare costs are shared with other Christians enrolled in our medical sharing plans.”
After federal agents served search warrants on the Medical Cost Sharing business and Reynolds’ residence on Dec. 13, 2022, the organization continued to attempt to collect membership dues. Two weeks later, the court stopped the organization with a temporary restraining order.
Reynolds faces a sentence of up to 23 years in prison without parole, according to the U.S. attorney. The plea states Reynolds must forfeit any gains from the organization, any property from his criminal activity, including two residences in St. Joseph, the contents of his bank account and a 2022 Harley Davidson motorcycle. He must pay $167,799 in restitution to the government.