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Former Georgia Youth Pastor Put on FBI Most Wanted List for Alleged $10 Million Fraud

By Josh Shepherd
Christopher Burns, 40, has been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List after being indicted in a $10 million investment fraud scheme. (Video screengrab)

A former youth pastor at Perimeter Church—a megachurch in Atlanta, Ga—turned financial advisor has been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List, after being indicted in a $10 million investment fraud scheme.

Christopher Burns, 40, who was last seen over two years ago by his ex-wife and children, defrauded dozens of investors out of millions, according to a press release published this month by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). On April 11, a federal grand jury in Atlanta charged Burns with 10 counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, and four counts of money laundering.

Through several companies he owned, Burns promised high returns to investors with “little to no risk,” saying their investments would be used to fund startup businesses, stated U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. Yet, Burns reportedly used their funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle, including a $1 million-dollar house, a boat, and an “obsession” with Disney vacations.

An investigative report noted Burns took his family on multiple annual trips to Disney World—including “$8,000 a day” VIP tours—and several Disney-themed cruises. His eldest son, Philip, called his dad “a Disney adult” and said memories of their trips have been tainted.

“I still feel awful,” said Philip. “Just me f—ing around at Magic Kingdom was (funded) by other people’s funds.”

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Prior to his finance career, Burns was a youth pastor at Perimeter Church, a megachurch affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), where Burns’ father, Bob Burns, was a lay leader and associate pastor for more than 15 years.

Chris Burns has been missing since September 24, 2020, when he drove away from his Berkely Lake, Ga., home, leaving his ex-wife, Meredith, and their three children behind. The vehicle was found abandoned in a nearby parking garage, and he has not been heard from since. 

“The FBI is still seeking the public’s help in locating Burns and will continue to pursue him no matter how long he tries to evade the law,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, in the DOJ statement.

One day prior to leaving, Burns and his wife entered into a divorce agreement, which allowed the family’s home and some assets to remain in her name. His ex-wife has said she was confused, hurt, and conned.

“I had no idea who I was living with,” she said in a past interview, urging Burns to turn himself in. 

The two met on a mission trip in eighth grade and attended the same church in Georgia. They married in 2002 while both attending evangelical-affiliated Taylor University in Indiana, and Burns became a youth pastor in the area. 

In 2007, the couple moved back to Georgia where he joined the staff at Perimeter and served as leader of the junior high ministry for four years. He left ministry in summer 2011 and turned to finance.  

burns former youth pastor indicted
Wanted: Christopher Burns (Courtesy of FBI)

Burns initially sold life insurance, then worked at a financial firm. He opened his own firm, Dynamic Money, and also launched a weekly local radio show which he used to promote his business. 

In investment offerings to clients, Burns promised as much as 20% interest. “In reality, he used investors’ money to repay prior investors and to fund his business and his lavish lifestyle,” stated the DOJ release, describing a Ponzi scheme

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission caught on to Burns’ scam in fall 2020, in the first of several investigations into his years-long fraud. He had been ordered to relinquish documents related to his business dealings on September 25, one day after his disappearance. 

A federal arrest warrant was issued for Burns on October 23, 2020, after he was charged with mail fraud in the U.S. District Court of Northern Georgia in Atlanta. 

“Once you’ve gotten yourself in the sights of the FBI, your days on the run are numbered,” said former veteran FBI special agent Terry Rankhorn. “The only thing he is accomplishing is depleting his funds and making things harder on his family.”

As legal claims against Burns have piled up, his family has struggled with the disgrace. “I have [had] to rethink my entire life,” said Philip. “He was my role model.” He also urged his dad to answer for his crimes: “Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else.”

The FBI has encouraged anyone with information to contact their Atlanta office. 

Correction: This article has been updated to accurately state Bob Burns’ employment with Perimeter Church.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his family live in the Washington, D.C. area.



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15 Responses

  1. My sense is that the Roys Report originally intended to provide the voice for victims of sexual abuse that was too often lacking when the church tried to cover up or dismiss the actions of the church leaders. But now it seems like its intent has become to seek out (“shine the light on”) every possible way it can find of current or previous church leaders behaving badly. It’s beginning to feel like a gossip rag. Of what value is it to me, or us, (other than prurient curiosity) to know that this one-time, long-ago, former youth pastor (“he left ministry in 2011”) is now on the FBI’s most wanted list, or to read this man’s son say of him, “He was my role model. . . . Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else.” There’s still such a thing as Philippians 4:8, the one about “whatsoever is just, pure, etc.,” to “think on those things.” Hey, I used to go to Willow Creek too! But even if not the goal of this steady diet of negative reports (with the occasional exception of something positive) to make us suspicious of our church pastors and leaders, it certainly will have that effect. There are too many pastors and youth leaders out there trying their best, to risk undermining what they are trying to do.

    1. I’m sorry you feel that way. But this man is actually on the run, and the FBI is seeking help from the public to find him and bring him to justice. So, I think there’s a great deal of value in publishing this story.

      As I’ve said numerous times, I wish our investigative work was not needed. But as long as these predators continue to prey on unsuspecting congregants, The Roys Report will continue to call them out.

      1. Julie thank you for reporting on these people . many of these people never had the character to be pastor’s. look at how the live there lives and take others down with them. no one is perfect, but my GOD pimping JESUS to get ahead.

        1. I agree with Sue Frederick above. I don’t see how this story fits the purported mission of The Roys Report, which I otherwise appreciate. Unless I missed it, I see nothing in the story itself or the related links that indicates that the long-ago pastor is, as Ms. Roys implies, one of those “predators [who] continue to prey on unsuspecting congregants.” “Calling out” the grievous sins, later in life, of those who once were pastors but no longer have any association with the ministry, seems gratuitous at best. Doing so could keep muckraker journalists busy for a very long time, and I’m confident that is not the mission of this site.

    2. Roys Report is doing the hard work of telling the truth. Regardless of how you feel, the truth about predators- whether sexual, financial, spiritual or any other type is hard to swallow. So much of the history of the church, the Church and the United States as a nation has been written by people willing to do just what you are asking: look over the hard stuff in light of those “still doing good”. But that isn’t the full history. The full history is all if every person’s life. Every one of us is making history and when people are hurt, marginalized, damaged… etc… that truth ALSO deserves to be told.
      “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”-James Madison

    3. “ Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”
      James Madison

    4. Well, you need to read your Bible which is not gossip, and get the Spirit of the Lord and the mind of Christ!

      God profiled the wolf in Peter’s epistle, in Jude’s epistle, in John’s letters, in Paul’s many warnings, and of course Jesus’ teachings

      Study your Bible and stop cursing His messengers!

      Peter said these wolves will make merchandise of you !!!!

      Get it!

      The pulpit is not protecting the flock! But Julie is!

      And you condemn her? Get on the right side.

    5. I completely agree with you in every way. Sensationalism sells. It’s all about the money. I can “report” on a minister who is horrible and getting a paycheck and free housing, a Christian school principal who had an affair with a young teacher “because his wife had cancer”, a Christian college that charges $50K a year that told POLICE on campus to “stand down!” when BLM students were harassing people, a minister stood up in a Sunday service and said “the Koran -the Bible-they’re the same” and more. Believers need and want the special stories of ministers doing good and succeeding.

  2. And I’m sure there was the ritual praying for success and convincing people he’s a godly man etc. etc. etc. think of the AME money manager who stole their millions in retirement. He is as also a godly man. The moment anyone uses their spiritualness as credibility, that’s the red flag to run from. If it’s all about just investing with godly men then we’d all be uber wealthy by now.

  3. Sue, As in the creation… so in the recreation. God is separating the light from the darkness. In Jesus own words, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword! For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

    And the Apostle Paul calls God’s children “children of light” who are commanded not to participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:5-11).

    These are very sobering warnings lest those who think they are believers are self-deceived. The tree is know by its fruit (Matthew 3:8,10;Matthew 7:15,16).

  4. My guess is that this dude is hiding out somewhere in Central America after transferring his funds into bank accounts in the Cayman Islands or Panama. A few million seems like a lot of money, but given he is only 40 he has to make that last for 30-40 years so I would be looking at places where the cost of living is low and there is an expat community. He has probably changed his appearance. The rule is this: Never, never, never trust someone who goes to church with you who pretends to be some kind of financial guru. This ranks up there with Amway, Melaleuca, and all of the other get-rich-quick schemes that Christians seem especially vulnerable to.

  5. At least he didn’t attack any little girls. Just a good old Thief doing a PONZI scheme. 10 million too. Hope he gets arrested. Moral to the story don’t do any investment business with people who are Christians or are from your church.

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Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “What If Jesus Was Serious about the Church?” by Skye Jethani.