How much did Peoples Temple have in assets at the time of the deaths in Jonestown? Where did it go afterwards?

While rumors of untold millions still find their way into various Internet postings – some associated with rumors that Jim Jones survived the events of November 18, and is still living comfortably with some of his most trusted lieutenants who escaped with him – the most credible accounting comes from the files of the Receiver who was tasked by a California court with recovering and distributing the Temple’s assets in the first few years after the deaths in Jonestown.

By the end of 1978, an initial accounting of more than $8.5 million in Temple assets had been located:

Money hidden by Carters $ 296,500
Cash found in Jonestown (U.S. currency) 634,867
Cash found in Jonestown (Guyana currency converted to U. S.) 22,400
Swiss Bank Corporation 2,043,000
Union Bank of Switzerland 5,241,536
Cash on hand in San Francisco (turned over by Temple members to their attorney, Charles Garry) 295,000

This $8.5 million figure did not include any of the church’s capital investments, like heavy machinery or medical equipment. It didn’t include any real estate holdings, either, like the property in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Redwood Valley.

A San Francisco court appointed attorney Robert Fabian as Receiver to identify and amass what monies and properties he could locate. Working from the Temple’s records and with the cooperation of surviving members of the financial staff, Fabian eventually identified approximately $10 million in assets that he was able to recover (the country of Guyana, for example, returned only 36% of the $1.45 million in Temple funds that it located). By the time the California court approved the disbursements to settle claims against the Temple, another $3 million in interest had accrued to that amount.

Of that $13 million, the first $1.6 million went to the U.S. government for reimbursement of transferring the bodies from Jonestown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Another $1.5 million paid the fees of numerous attorneys who had worked on behalf of the court, including almost a half million to Fabian and the receiver staff. Smaller amounts had been disbursed earlier to the Guyana Emergency Relief Committee which had arranged for transport and burial of the unidentified and unclaimed bodies at Evergreen Cemetery in May 1979.

The balance of the estate went to settle the claims against it. Highest on the list were payments for medical expenses of those wounded in the shootings at the Port Kaituma airstrip and wrongful death suits filed by families of the non-Temple members who died there. After those disbursements, former members and relatives were awarded smaller amounts, often only pennies on the dollar of claimed damages.

For more, see “Closing the Books,” a chapter from A Sympathetic History of Jonestown by Rebecca Moore (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1985) from which much of the information for this answer was taken.

Last modified on May 24th, 2014.
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