The former evangelical pastor of a church in Ahuntsic [Montreal, Quebec] has been sentenced to a 30-month prison term and was ordered to reimburse more than $260,000 to the four members of his congregation that he defrauded.
The criminal case against Mwinda Lezoka, 58, dates back to 2011, when the head of the Communauté Chrétienne de Béthel was already embroiled in other controversies.
In 2020, Quebec Court Judge Yves Paradis found Lezoka guilty of one count of fraud, and on Wednesday he sentenced Lezoka to the prison term while ordering him to reimburse the four victims that he swindled. The judge acknowledged reimbursement is likely impossible as Lezoka was declared bankrupt in 2013.
Prosecutor Jérôme Gagné recommended that Lezoka be sentenced to up to four years behind bars while defence lawyer Cynthia Lacombe argued a nine-month sentence would be more appropriate.
One of the victims was defrauded out of more than $80,000 and is now living in poverty and is in poor health as he approaches retirement. Before he was defrauded by Lezoka, he was a naturopath and had money tucked away. He has since lost his home and has been living in an apartment with his daughter over the past seven years.