The U.S. Department of Justice announced March 29 that a well-known pastor of a Houston megachurch has been indicted on fraud charges.
Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, 64, is the senior pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church, which he has led since 1982, according to the church's website. Caldwell also became a spiritual advisor to former President George W. Bush while Bush was governor of Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports. He's also is a limited partner of the Houston Texans, has been an independent director of NRG Energy Inc. (NYSE: NRG) since 2009 and serves on the board of trustees of Baylor College of Medicine, per the Chronicle.
Caldwell and Gregory Alan Smith, 55, of Shreveport, Louisiana, were charged with 13 counts related to wire fraud and money laundering, according to a press release from the DOJ.
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"According to the indictment, Smith used his influence and status as the operator and manager of Smith Financial Group LLC in Shreveport, and Caldwell used his influence and status as pastor at a prominent Houston church to lure investors to pay more than $1 million to invest in Historical Chinese bonds," the press release states. "These bonds were issued by the former Republic of China prior to losing power to the communist government in 1949."
As such, China's current government does not recognize the bonds, which therefore have no investment value, per the release. However, the indictment alleges Smith and Caldwell promised high rates of return.
"Instead of investing the funds, the defendants used them to pay personal loans, credit card balances, mortgages, vehicle purchases and other personal expenses," the release states.
The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud-related counts and up to 10 years for the money laundering-related counts, as well as a $1 million fine, restitution, forfeiture and five years of supervised release.
According to KTRK ABC13, Dan Cogdell, Caldwell's attorney, released a statement saying: "Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell is a religious leader who has been falsely accused. He trusts the legal process completely but most importantly his faith. He will be absolved. We look forward to trying this case in the court of law."
Cogdell is expected to hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. March 30, according to Click2Houston.com.