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Magazine creator charged with fraud

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

Investigators with the Grant County Prosecutor’s Office say Georgia man Dion Welton defrauded several people who invested in his Christian magazine, “Hope is Now.”

Welton, a former Grant County resident, faces charges of fraudulent or deceitful act in the offer, sale or purchase of a security, a Level 4 felony, unlawful sale of a security, a Level 5 felony, and corrupt business influence, a Level 5 felony.

The investors named in court documents paid a little over $4,000 combined – in most cases several hundred dollars – for their shares in the company and testified to investigator Dave Homer that they did not receive any profits from the magazine and that the magazine’s launch date was continuously pushed back.

Welton admits that investors did not receive any profits but says that investors always had the option to be refunded their money.

“Every one of these individuals knew from the very beginning that if for any reason they became disenchanted ... they could ask for a refund,” Welton said.

Most identified as victims in the case did just that and received refunds, although one woman said it took months to get her refund.

Another woman told investigators she worked for the magazine doing marketing but never received her last paycheck. The check bounced and a wire transfer from Welton never came through, according to court documents.

Court documents also say Welton misled investors by claiming the magazine was sponsored by Liberty University, Chick-Fil-A and Publix Supermarkets.

Liberty University and Chick-Fil-A both told the prosecutor’s office they have no affiliation with Welton or the magazine. Chick-Fil-A reportedly told Welton to stop using their foundation’s logo and information immediately.

“The common thread to this scheme was that all of the victims with the buy-in of ownership in the magazine offer all had a religious background. All of the victims had a heart for those that were struggling and felt as though this was a way to support his mission in helping others,” Homer wrote in the probable cause affidavit.

The court documents say only three issues were printed of the magazine that Homer was aware of. Welton disputes this, saying the magazine’s seventh issue is now on its way. New online articles can be viewed on the magazine’s website, hopeisnowonline.com.

The lead prosecutor on the case is Kelly Loy, an attorney with the Prosecution Assistance Unit of the Securities Division of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Ian Houer, deputy communications director for the Secretary of State, said the office could not comment on the matters pertaining to the facts of the case. Houer said the state got involved upon the invitation of the Grant County Prosecutor’s Office.

Welton says that although the magazine had a difficult start financially, having to downsize more than once, it’s now growing. He says there are over 600 paid subscribers in 25-30 states and many paid advertisers.

“There was never, never any intention to try to screw people out of any money. That’s why they were offered their money back,” Welton said.

He believes Homer investigated the case as a “personal vendetta” against him and deliberately filed charges just before the Faulk administration took over the prosecutor’s office.

“I’m passionate about this, I’m upset about this. This has disrupted my life and my family,” Welton said of the investigation. 

“Only one person who has less than $500 invested has not been paid back. (Everyone else) was paid back months before any charges were filed,” Welton said.

Welton was arrested in Georgia two weeks ago after a Grant County Crime Stoppers tip led to his arrest, according to Det. Kyle Beal of the Grant County Sheriff’s Department.

Beal said a tip came in giving Welton’s exact location.

Welton was booked into the Grant County Jail last week. He posted a surety bond for $60,000 on April 5 and was released from the jail.