Saturday, 31 March 2018

Popular US Pastor Indicted For Wire Fraud, Money Laundering

The head pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, a 14,000-member megachurch in Houston, Texas, has been indicted for wire fraud and money laundering. He's also accused of stealing millions from his congregation. 

Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, 64, a longtime spiritual adviser to ex-President George W. Bush was on Thursday indicted in federal court on claims that he sold more than $1 million in worthless Chinese bonds to vulnerable and elderly investors, some of whom lost their life savings to the alleged scheme, The Washington Post reports.

Prosecutors said in a news release, that the federal grand jury in Shreveport, La., returned a 13-count indictment accusing the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell and financial planner Gregory Alan Smith of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy.

The two men were also sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the same federal court on allegations that they violated financial laws.

According to court documents, Caldwell and 55-year-old Gregory raised nearly $3.4 million through a Chinese bond scheme to defraud approximately 29 investors from April 2013 to August 2014.

The two allegedly promised high rates of return sometimes up to 15 times the value.

Prosecutors said Caldwell used his influence as the pastor of the 16,000-member Village United Methodist Church to dupe investors into buying historical Chinese bonds issued decades ago.

Caldwell and Smith, who operates a Shreveport-based financial management firm, allegedly promised investors sky-high returns sometimes 15 times what they invested assuring them all along that they could be later sold for tens of millions of dollars.

In a statement by U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook, he said: “These bonds were issued by the former Republic of China prior to losing power to the communist government in 1949. They are not recognized by China’s current government and have no investment value.”

In the court documents from the SEC, it was alleged that Caldwell and Smith lured in 29 investors, most of them vulnerable and elderly, telling some they stood to rake in exorbitant returns in a matter of weeks.

Caldwell and Smith each face up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud counts and 10 years for the money laundering counts. If found guilty, they also face a $1 million fine, restitution, forfeiture and five years of supervised release.

Source:  The Washington Post

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