A federal grand jury in Shreveport, Louisiana, indicted a Houston megachurch pastor and spiritual adviser to former President George W. Bush and a financial adviser on 13 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. The men were also sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which alleged they violated financial laws.
Prosecutors alleged that the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell leveraged his power as the leader of the 16,000-member Windsor Village United Methodist Church to swindle investors, some of whom sacrificed their life savings for the promise of tens of millions of dollars. The pastor allegedly manufactured the scheme with Gregory Alan Smith, who runs a financial management firm in Shreveport.
While promising up to 15-fold returns on investments, the accused men received more than $1 million for useless bonds issued by the Republic of China, which was deposed in 1949.
“These bonds were issued by the former Republic of China prior to losing power to the communist government in 1949,” U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook said. “They are not recognized by China’s current government and have no investment value.”
Caldwell and Smith used the money for personal expenses.
I absolutely believe these allegations are false! I’ve been at windsor my entire life and have been around pastor and his family for my entire life. These statements do not represent the character of man i know to be Kirbyjon Caldwell— Mason (@Hah_youwish_) March 30, 2018
Some people on social media expressed disbelief at the charges, reflecting the personal devotion that Caldwell has inspired since expanding the church's following from just 25 people in 1982 to its size today. In 1999, when discussing the growth of his megachurch, he told Dallas Morning News, “This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s about being faithful to God and receiving what God has for you.”
The irony of this quote is evident considering the charges, which carry a possible sentence of 30 years. Caldwell and Smith allegedly preyed on elderly and vulnerable investors to conduct their scheme of personal fulfillment. While harnessing devotion and respect gained for supposedly promoting religious ideals, Caldwell reportedly conducted a malicious campaign of greed. The charges highlight the potential for social authority figures to abuse their power by utilizing public respect for personal benefit.
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