Federal prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for Jason Gerald Shenk, 45, for allegedly defrauding conservative Anabaptist individuals and groups of more than $33 million in donations meant to send Bibles and other Christian literature to China.
The U.S. Department of Justice alleges Shenk obtained about $22 million from one charitable organization and $10 million from another from 2010 to 2019 for printing and distributing the materials. Instead, court documents unsealed Aug. 1 allege Shenk used the funds for sports gambling, gold and gemstones, life insurance policies in various names, stock purchases, funds for his family farm, credit cards and a real estate development in Chile.
Department of Justice public affairs officer Barry Paschal confirmed “a large number of the individual donors were from the Amish and Mennonite community” in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ontario.
Weston Showalter, a spokesperson for Christian Aid Ministries, confirmed on Aug. 4 the organization is one of the two charities specified in the indictment. Based in Berlin, Ohio, CAM is a mission and relief organization supported by Amish and conservative Mennonite groups.
An Aug. 1 statement to donors indicated CAM received a subpoena for business records in April 2019 and shortly thereafter ceased to work with an individual.
“If proven true, this alleged fraudulent activity would be a shock to us, considering the recommendations by others who worked with this contact and the long-term, trusted relationship we had with this contact, including many face-to-face meetings,” stated the organization. “… We are aware that our work in restricted countries exposes us to a certain amount of risk. We work to provide as much verification as possible, but recognize that an unscrupulous person could exploit our inability to independently verify their work as thoroughly as we can in open countries where our staff are able to visit and serve.”
CAM distributed more than 4 million Bibles and New Testaments around the world in 2022.
Shenk renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2016 to avoid federal financial reporting requirements. The former resident of Dublin, Ga., comes from a conservative Mennonite background and is associated with a multitude of bank accounts and companies registered in the U.S., Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Samoan Islands, British Virgin Islands and Marshall Islands.
The indictment alleges Shenk created false spreadsheets and distribution lists to represent Bibles and literature produced and distributed in various Chinese provinces and claimed persecution from Chinese authorities to avoid oversight from charities.
He faces more than 40 charges including counts of money laundering and wire fraud.
Shenk previously worked for Global Tribes Outreach, a conservative Anabaptist organization based in Pennsylvania and Ontario focused on overseas missions. Its website includes an initiative called “Bibles for Asia.”
“Jason Shenk was formerly on staff of Global Tribes Outreach from 2002 to 2004, and since then there’s been no direct organizational relationship there,” said GTO spokesperson Tim Beiler.
Beiler declined to comment on whether the organization is connected to the indictment, where Shenk worked with GTO or whether he interacted with GTO between 2010 and 2019.
“We’re not aware of any unlawful activity that took place when he was on staff with our organization,” he said.