Local News

September 19, 2013

Marine turned monk, convicted of $2.7M scam, to speak about serving others

Matt Tenney has spent time as a Marine, a convict, a monk and now as a social entrepreneur spreading his message of doing well by doing good to audiences near and far.

He brings his program on the value of servant leadership, a philosophy that puts others first, to Dalton State College in a free lecture set for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Goodroe Auditorium of Gignilliat Memorial Hall.

Tenney was a Marine Corps first lieutenant who attempted to scam a Los Angeles bank out of $2.7 million by claiming the money was needed by the Marines for a six-month deployment, The Los Angeles Times reported in 2001.

Tenney used Marine Corps stationery and impersonated a Marine officer to try and convince Los Angeles bank officials to send a Brink’s armored car with the money to a location on the base, FBI Agent Jeff Thurman told the Times during the investigation.

Tenney, 24 at the time, was arrested on the San Diego Freeway in Santa Ana on Jan. 30, 2001, on his way to the John Wayne Airport for a flight to Brazil. Thurman told the Times that Tenney made a run for it when he learned FBI agents were watching him after bank officials became suspicious. He was convicted and sentenced to five years and six months in a military prison.

While serving his sentence, Tenney says he transformed his outlook on life, choosing to consider his wrongdoing as not a setback but a way to move forward.

Upon being released from prison, Tenney moved to Mexico to live in a monastery. After living as a monk for three years, he founded a nonprofit organization, Kids Kicking Cancer, and became devoted to teaching the practice of servant leadership.

He currently serves as a trainer with the Perth Leadership Institute in Gainesville, Fla., and travels the country as a motivational speaker. He says he turns all profits from his speaking engagements over to various charities.

“Matt Tenney’s story had an impact on me,” said Montana Gray, a Dalton State student and chair of the Campus Activities Board’s Culture and Awareness Committee. “His beliefs shifted my actions, his kindness melted my cynical shell and his talk changed me for the better. His presence alone is inspirational.”

The program, sponsored by the Office of Student Life, is free and open to the public.

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