A Montana antigay activist accused of running a fraudulent investment scheme says he's the victim of a conspiracy by gay advocates.
Harris Himes (pictured) of Hamilton, Mont., and business partner Jeb Bryant, both self-proclaimed ministers, were charged last week by the state commissioner of securities and insurance with theft, fraud, conspiracy, failure to register a security, and failure to register to sell that security, the Missoulian newspaper reports.
The charges are based on accusations that in 2008 they persuaded a man to invest $150,000 in their company, Duratherm Building Systems, promising him a 20% return on investment and a 5% ownership stake. The man says he has made no profit, has received no receipts or certificate of ownership, and couldn't get his money back.
Himes, a frequent campaigner against LGBT causes and abortion rights, turned himself in last week and was placed in Ravalli County jail before posting bail. While he was there, a local radio show, Talkback, interviewed him, and he said, "Unfortunately, there is some evidence that shows that this is in fact an opportunity for the gay rights activists to come after me." He said he is "innocent of all charges" and that he may have been targeted by Montana insurance commissioner Monica Lindeen, whom he described as an advocate for abortion rights and gay equality.
Himes has said he is pastor of the Big Sky Christian Center in Hamilton, but another local clergyman disputes this. After the criminal charges were brought against Himes, a homeless shelter that had been using space at Big Sky ended the relationship, and shelter officials are looking for a new location, the Missoulian reports.