Houston megachurch pastor KirbyJon Caldwell has issued a statement through his attorney, maintaining his innocence after being accused of fraud and money laundering in a scheme involving phony Chinese bonds.
Caldwell, 64, is the senior pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church. The church is one of the largest protestant churches in the United States.
According to court documents, Caldwell and 55-year-old Gregory Alan Smith 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.
“In reality, the bonds were mere collectible memorabilia with no investment value,” court documents stated.
Smith is accused of abusing his influence and status with the Smith Financial Group in Shreveport and Caldwell leveraging his status as pastor to lure investors in Historical Chinese bonds.
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.
None of the investors received any money back, court documents stated.
Caldwell and Smith are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of money laundering. Additionally, Smith and Caldwell are charged in two separate counts of money laundering.
Each face 20 years in prison for the conspiracy to commit wire fraud count and for the wire fraud counts. They also face 10 years in prison for the conspiracy to commit money laundering count and the money laundering counts. If found guilty, they also face a $1 million fine, restitution, forfeiture and five years of supervised release.
Caldwell once served as one of President George W. Bush’s spiritual advisors. He is currently listed as a limited partner with the Houston Texans.
The Texans released the following statement, “We have recently been made aware of a report involving Kirbyjon Caldwell. We are gathering more information and will have no further comment at this time.”
Sources say Caldwell is working with authorities to surrender in Louisiana within next week to 10 days. According to KTRK, Caldwell is expected to have a press conference to address the matter in the coming days.