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Corey Pritchett to spend almost 8 years in jail

Convicted fraudster Corey Jerry Pritchett, a self-proclaimed pastor and entrepreneur who lived on Wildcat Mountain Drive southeast of Sandy, was sentenced to almost eight years in prison.

Pritchett, 44 - pastor of Northwest Deliverance Ministries - was initially arrested at the Sandy Public Library on May 7, 2007, on 18 separate charges stemming from allegations that he had defrauded investors.

That number ballooned to 32 counts in Multnomah County alone - including theft, securities fraud and other crimes - accusing Pritchett of filching an estimated $43,000 between 2004 and 2006, according to the Associated Press.

The trial took three weeks. The jury viewed more than 140 exhibits and heard from several dozen witnesses.

During the trial, Pritchett - who served as his own attorney - apparently apologized to the victims who were present, but he never made any admission of wrongdoing.

'He maintains the position he was a bad businessman who made mistakes and didn't intend to rip off people,' said Simon Whang, the special prosecutor assigned to the case who has since taken a position at the state attorney general's office.

The jury didn't buy Pritchett's story, shown by a quick - three hours - unanimous verdict.

Prosecutors successfully argued that although Pritchett was being tried as a first-time offender, he has a 19-year history of fraudulent practices.

Many former employees spoke out against Pritchett, claiming he never paid them for their work and stole tens of thousands of dollars by having them invest in real estate deals that never took place.

He also owes $80,000 in back taxes, Whang said.

Over the past several years, Pritchett has been sued more than 40 times by people who said he used his position as a pastor to persuade people to let him invest their money; Pritchett maintains his innocence.

Out of thousands of dollars collected for so-called charities over the years, investigators found just one check for $50 that went to a 'legitimate charity source.'

Furthermore, Whang said, they proved that Pritchett showed no signs of stopping his fraud.

'No one, not law enforcement admonition, not family, could convince him to stop,' he said.

After police initially searched Pritchett's home in February 2007, prosecutors say Pritchett continued his schemes. Even while in prison, where he had awaited trial since April, he was not deterred.

'One of the people he ripped off was in jail with him on an unrelated DUII probation violation,' Whang said. 'Corey and him talked, and he said he'd pay him back $10,000 and offered to write up a contract.'

That prisoner declined but found that other prisoners began asking questions about Pritchett.

'They asked, 'Is he legit? He said he'd get me into a house after I get out of prison,' ' Whang said. 'Even being in prison doesn't stop him; he's unstoppable. For the protection of society we have to keep this guy locked up.'

The prosecution asked for 170 months in jail, and a pre-sentence investigation recommended 142 months. The judge went for 90 months, plus four months of local lockup.

'Ninety months for a first-time offender of a non-violent crime in Multnomah County isn't unremarkable,' Whang noted.

Pritchett faces 25 additional charges in Clackamas County, which could extend his overall time in jail. The Clackamas County trial, originally scheduled for the end of this month, has been pushed back to March.

Whang says he believes the courts will face 'an inevitable appeal.' Pritchett has stated that he's in jail because he believes the state, the police and the judge are racists and oppose his ministry.

'It continually frustrates us,' Whang said. 'In all my years of prosecution, I've never seen anyone like this. Everybody's responsible for his being in jail but himself.'