'Fraudster' blames Hillsongwww.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22303984-5013404,00.html
Anthony Klan | August 25, 2007
ROBERT Orehek admits he did the wrong thing but claims it was the materialistic ethos of the pentecostal Hillsong Church that made him do it.
The 45-year-old former property developer is the man known for "fleecing" $25million from investors -- predominantly members of the Hillsong congregation
Mr Orehek faced the NSW District Court yesterday on four counts of fraud -- to which he has pleaded guilty -- but his trial has placed the spotlight on the "greed is good" mantra of the Hillsong empire, which preaches that material wealth is a badge of God's favour.
Mr Orehek strenuously denies the portrayals of him as an evil property developer intent on embezzling investor funds.
And he has an unlikely ally. Consumer advocate and real estate novelist Neil Jenman -- Mr Jenman said, he was a "dreadfully inept businessman" and "not particularly intelligent" but not someone who had set out to deceive investors.
He had been worshiping at Hillsong twice a week for five years but had made "very few friends".
That changed in 1998 when parishioners discovered Mr Orehek was a "property developer". Suddenly he was contacted by "more than 100" members of the congregation seeking to invest in his developments.
Among those church members to invest were Hillsong pastor David Crafts and executive pastor Joel A'Bell, who poured in a combined $540,000.
The churchgoers were chasing returns of 25 per cent on their investments that Mr Orehek said he could deliver because he intended making 100 per cent on all equity invested, and "didn't want to be too greedy and keep all the profits myself".
Following the collapse, a suicidal and "deeply remorseful" Mr Orehek was banned from worshipping at Hillsong.
On behalf of Hillsong management, elder Kevin Brett wrote to Mr Orehek in February 2004 threatening to call the police if hereturned.