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Man Gets Prison Time For Fleecing Would-Be Pilgrims

A Montgomery County man who admitted taking payments from church members for Christian pilgrimage trips and pocketing the money has been given five years in federal prison.

75-year-old John Baird of Elkins Park pleaded guilty to mail fraud earlier this year in federal court in Philadelphia.

He owned and operated a company called Christian Pilgrim Tours.  Prosecutors say he took more than $400,000 from 138 church members, mostly retirees, and he continued running the company and taking payments after filing for personal bankruptcy in 2005.  The company went bankrupt the following year.

They say he even recruited religious leaders to help him sell trips to Israel, Rome, Greece and other places, but he never delivered the trips or returned the money.
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