Prominent Houston pastor pleads guilty to defrauding elderly investors

HOUSTON, March 11 (Reuters) - A prominent Houston megachurch pastor who counseled presidents and top executives pleaded guilty on Wednesday of conspiracy to sell $3.5 million in worthless bonds to elderly investors.

Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor at the Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, one of the nations largest Protestant churches with about 17,000 members, faces between five and seven years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000 under his plea agreement.

Neither Caldwell nor his attorney could be reached for immediate comment.

A spokeswoman for Windsor Village United Methodist Church referred questions to an email address that did not reply.

Caldwell has been an adviser to former presidents, including George W. Bush, a limited partner in the Houston Texans professional football franchise, and served on the board of power company NRG Energy.

He faces sentencing on July 22, according to David Joseph, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. Caldwell's partner in the fraud, Gregory A. Smith, a Shreveport, Louisiana, investment adviser, pleaded guilty last year to the same charge.

"These defendants used their positions as religious leaders and investment advisers to defraud Louisiana residents many of whom are elderly and retired," said Joseph. The pair used money from the bogus investments for personal expenses, vehicles and a vacation property.

Caldwell has made partial restitution to victims in the case and agreed to pay $1.9 million before his sentencing, Joseph said. (Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Tom Brown)