I don’t usually do topical stuff but this one is too good to pass up.

Minnesota’s current big scandal is the Tom Petters pyramid scam. A major player in the scandal was an ex-con, professional criminal, and evangelical preacher named Frank Vennes:

Janet Leck, 79, said she and her late husband met another Petters investor, Frank Vennes Jr., in the mid-1980s when they helped arrange religious retreats in prisons through a nonprofit entity called Charis Ministries. Vennes was in the Sandstone Federal Correctional Institution on money-laundering, drug and firearm charges at the time.

Vennes became an evangelist in prison and after he got out, steered unwitting investors to the Wayzata businessman. On his advice, investors, including faith-based organizations, put $1.2 billion into the hands of Petters and the company he controlled, Petters Co. Inc. For his work, Vennes, 52, allegedly collected commissions totaling $28 million, according to government documents.

Vennes traces his redemption to an interview with a Christian prison visitor who taught him gratitude:

That was more than a dozen years ago, and now Vennes’ story resembles that of Joseph, who was brought out of prison and placed in a position of influence. He now manages his own multi-million dollar company, financing accounts receivable. As the business prospered, he and his wife sought direction from God on where they should place the money He had entrusted to them. Faith Studies International was one of the answers. “I could put it in human terms,” says Vennes. “It’s an extremely effective ministry with verifiable results. They use the money wisely and efficiently. But what it really comes down to is following God’s leading—and He pointed us to Faith Studies.”

If you should care to support Frank Vennes’s work, Faith Studies International can be found here.

Watchdog report on Faith Studies International: Five Stars

Michelle Bachmann and Frank Vennes

Norm Coleman too (remember him?)