He may never had intended for Praise the Lord ministry he started in 1974 to turn into a business, but it did, with 2,000 employees at its peak and $129 million a year in revenue. But more than a decade later in 1987, Bakker's financial empire crumbled after he admitted to having a sexual encounter with church secretary Jessica Hahn and giving Hahn hush-money payments.
Before it all fell apart, Bakker raised $158 million for Heritage USA, a vast theme park he wanted to build for Christians in Fort Mill, S.C., with hotels, motels, campgrounds and a water park. He asked 25,000 supporters to donate $1,000, which would entitle them as "lifetime partners " to three nights free lodging every year for the rest of their lives at the theme park. A total of 66,000 signed up for the partnerships. Bakker proposed another hotel and sold more than twice as many partnerships as were available.
The ministry filed for bankruptcy within two months of Bakker's resignation. At the time, the organization was $130 million in debts. Bakker was convicted on 24 counts of mail and wire fraud, and was sentenced to 45 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. He served only five years in prison and was released in 1994 after his sentence was reduced on appeal. Bakker and his second wife now run a non-profit church in Missouri. (Photo: AP)